DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson held off a late charge from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday to win his second Daytona 500 in the 400th start of his illustrious career.
Johnson was the leader when the green flag came out for the final time with six laps to go. He decided to take the outside line, and that line quickly pulled away from the inside line with Greg Biffle, pole-sitter Danica Patrick, Earnhardt and Mark Martin in tow.
As the field got the white flag, several cars behind the leaders bounced off the wall in the first turn. But it did not bring out a yellow flag to the delight of the crowd as fan favorite Earnhardt and Martin hooked up to dive below Patrick and Biffle.
Johnson saw Earnhardt's charge and pulled down to block his teammate to score the win.
Martin finished third, followed by defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Biffle, Regan Smith, Patrick, Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley.
While Patrick was disappointed with her eighth-place finish, she still called her day a "solid one" after becoming the first woman to win the pole position for the 500, the first woman to lead the 500 and the first woman to lead under the green.
"I was half-throttle most of the line just riding in line," said Patrick. "I needed some people to help me out at the end. I thought about going low but if I was afraid if I would go low I would get freight-trained. "
Her eighth-place finish was also the highest by a woman driver at Daytona.
For most of the line, the outside line was the dominant line. But Johnson used the inside line to grab the lead in a side-by-side duel with Keselowski after a caution flag with 23 laps to go.
The green came back out with 19 laps remaining with Keselowski as the leader. As the leader, he elected to take the outside line with Johnson having to move to the inside.
Keselowski was followed by fellow Ford driver Biffle, Patrick, Jeff Gordon, Martin and Earnhardt.
Johnson headed the inside line, followed by Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano.
For the first time in the race, the inside line was able to stay alongside the outside line as Keselowski and Johnson swapped the lead repeatedly with Johnson less than a foot ahead when the yellow came out on lap 191 for debris in the second turn. The piece of metal actually hit the front bumper of Keselowski's Ford. This turned out to be the winning move.