The most dramatic crash happened during the final lap of the "great American race" when driver Clint Bowyer, 26, was involved in a multi-car pileup. After a chain reaction caused by a collision between Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, Bowyer's car flipped upside down, skidded across the finish line and then caught on fire.
Fortunately, Bowyer walked away unharmed and finished the race in 18th place.
"I tell you, it was a wild last lap," Bowyer told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "You know, I knew we were probably going to wreck. I just hoped I was going to get through it when we did. I was almost through it, you know. The wreck had happened. I saw the (No.) 5 car go low, the (No.) 17 went high, and I went through the middle. By time I thought I was through it, they clipped me in the right rear and away she went."
He said he worried that he would be hit while he was sliding and then worried when his car hit the grass, he would begin cart-wheeling.
"Thankfully, it just slid and then caught on fire," he said. "Then I was a little worried about that, you know, getting out with it on fire. The weirdest thing was how much dirt that came inside that car. I had probably, you know, 30, 40 pounds of dirt on top of me, trying to get out of it. So that was interesting."
Earlier in the race, two leaders, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch lost control when Bush tapped Stewart's bumper on lap153. On the 174th lap, 2006 Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson triggered a multi-car crash when his car slid. The race was stopped briefly on the 195th lap after Dale Earnhardt Jr. was forced to leave the race after another multi-car crash.
Bowyer's teammate Kevin Harvick, on the Jack Daniels sponsored Richard Childress Racing team, won the Daytona 500. He narrowly edged out Mark Martin in a photo finish win.
This past year was Bowyer's rookie season and he has been making his mark on NASCAR. Bowyer had four finishes in the top five and 11 in the top 10, helping him finish as runner-up in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings. He finished third in the NASCAR Busch Series championship.
"I tell you, the Jack Daniels Chevrolet, like I say, it was fast. We had a really good month all month long down there, through testing practices," he said. "We had a strong race car. Unfortunately, it's in the bone yard out back."
He didn't run screaming from his car in his underwear, praying to Tom Cruise and Oprah like Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights," but Bowyer, who lives in Clemmons, N.C., certainly had a race to remember.
"If you can't win," he said, "be spectacular."