Veteran Mark Martin started on the pole, led more than a dozen laps early and was closing in on the leaders late.
Then his ride around Daytona International Speedway ended like so many others have for him — in the garage and out of contention.
Martin started a 15-car pileup with a few laps remaining Saturday night, leaving him 0 for 53 in Cup races at NASCAR's most famous track.
"I knew it was going to get crazy," Martin said.
It certainly did.
Martin turned down in front of Joey Logano shortly after a green-white-checker restart, got clipped and started spinning in front of a pack of others. Martin could do little to avoid the melee, collecting Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and others. Logano acknowledged afterward that he was merely being aggressive in the final laps.
"Mark was trying to come down in front of me," said Logano, who wound up third. "I could have backed off and let him in, but it was the end of the race so I was wide open, I didn't care. ... We were going to team up, but I went in there guns blazing and see what the heck happened on the other side."
Martin finished 33rd, leaving him winless in 26 starts in Daytona's July race. He also is 0 for 27 in the Daytona 500.
BAYNE'S BAD LUCK: Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne was hoping for a repeat trip to Victory Lane at Daytona. Instead, he got an early exit.
Bayne wrecked on the fifth lap of Saturday's race and finished 40th, ending his return to Sprint Cup competition way sooner than he hoped.
"It's not fun, I can promise you," Bayne said. "It takes about a half second and you say, 'Oh, here it goes,' because you get sideways and you know the point of correction. ... I just hate that it was us. It's gonna happen again tonight, I'm sure, but it's just really unfortunate for us. I wanted to back up what we did here in February, obviously, but we aren't gonna get the chance to do that."
Bayne was running in tandem with Brad Keselowski, but Keselowski turned Bayne around when he seemingly started pushing too close to the left rear.
"I don't know if I turned down more getting in (turn one) or if he kind of came up across our bumper," Bayne said. "Either way, our bumpers caught wrong and it sent us spinning."
Bayne's season has been a whirlwind.
He became the youngest Daytona 500 winner in February, but he failed to capitalize on his surprise victory. He soon found himself in the Mayo Clinic being treated for what he now believes was Lyme disease. After taking several weeks off, Bayne returned for the Nationwide race at Chicagoland but felt run down. He was hoping to find more normalcy at Daytona, but ended up with a short stint behind the wheel.
"I can't explain what I've been through this year," Bayne said. "It's tough at times and it's good at times, but I just know that I've got really good people behind me. ... So that gives me confidence. If I didn't have that and I didn't have my faith and everything else, right now that would be a pretty bad blow, I can promise you that."
NO BONUS: David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. had extra incentive to win Saturday's race at Daytona — and stick together in the process.
Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman told his teams before the race that he would pay them $1 million for a 1-2 finish in the 400-mile race. He would give the winning team $250,000 and the second-place team $750,000. Yes, the runner-up would have received more — because teamwork and the pushing car in Daytona's tandem drafts have become so important since the famed track was repaved.
"Everyone gets it," Kauffman said. "It's a team thing. If you're P2 and you're coming around the last turn, a lot of things are on your mind. So will this change anything? I don't know. But if it all worked out that Michael Waltrip Racing was 1-2, I'd be pretty happy with an extra million going to the guys."
It didn't, though.
Reutimann and Truex both were involved a 15-car pileup during a green-white-checker finish. Reutimann finished 25th, 10 sports higher than Truex.
PENSKE PROGRESS: Roger Penske credited the recent upswing of his two-car NASCAR organization to operating under a one-team philosophy. But, he doesn't exactly discredit the notion that Kurt Busch's tirade in May had an effect.
"Sometimes you need a vibration, a little noise in the house," Penske said before Saturday night's race at Daytona. "I don't think there's one silver bullet that you can point to as the fix, but conversation is always good and Kurt endorsed the plans that came from those conversations."
Busch was terribly unhappy with the performance of the No. 22 team through March and April, and it boiled over at a race in Richmond in an expletive-laden rant on his in-car radio. Behind the scenes changes were made after that race, and both Busch and Brad Keselowski have turned it up since.
Busch won three straight poles and last week's road course race in Sonoma, and he's fourth in the Sprint Cup standings after finishing 14th at Daytona. Keselowski won the pole at Charlotte, the race at Kansas and was 10th at Sonoma to move up to 22nd in the standings. He finished 15th Saturday, leaving him with nine races to move himself into contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
"I think Brad has been able to show some speed, and Kurt appreciates that," Penske said. "Both drivers are highly motivated, which is a good thing, and people don't realize that Kurt wants to be the fastest car on every lap of every race, just like his brother. That's not a bad thing."
The trick, Penske said, is for the organization not to get complacent just because it's running better.
"We can't get too far ahead of ourselves," Penske said. "There's a lot of time left. Brad has the win, and that's certainly very important and that's certainly put him in position to make the Chase. But we've got to look at this one week at a time."
STAR POWER: Country music star Martina McBride performed an hourlong concert before the race, singing some of her most popular tunes, including "Broken Wing" and "Independence Day." In a not-so-stunning admission, McBride said widely beloved Dale Earnhardt Jr. is her favorite driver. She joked that her hair had little chance to hold up in Florida's stifling summer heat and humidity.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher served as the grand marshal, delivering the command to start engines. He said he grew up a NASCAR fan and had "butterflies, that giddy feeling" in his stomach beforehand.
"It's a great honor for me," Fisher said.
With 18 starters returning this fall, Fisher also acknowledged high expectations for the Seminoles in 2011. They are a popular pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and maybe compete for the national title.
"They're predicting us to win it, so I asked them the other day if they could send me the trophy," Fisher said. "But they wouldn't send it down there. I guess we have to go win it, I hope. We feel good about our team coming in."
Radio personality Todd Clem, better known as "Bubba the Love Sponge," drove the pace car.