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NASCAR's Martin Truex Jr. leads Daytona 500 at halfway point

February 20, 2011 | 12:29 pm

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Martin Truex Jr. led the Daytona 500 at the halfway point of the 200-lap race after an early multi-car crash ruined the chances of several of the leading drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

But several other drivers were less than one second behind Truex in the series' season opener at Daytona International Speedway, including Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya and his teammate and defending Daytona 500 winner, Jamie McMurray.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running 14th but was only two seconds behind the leader.

Californian Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, his teammate at Richard Childress Racing, both were knocked out of the race with blown engines. Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007.

This year's Daytona 500 was unlike any other, owing mainly to the track being repaved during the off-season. Teams discovered that two cars, and only two cars, drafting nose to tail on the new, smooth surface was the fastest way to get around the high-banked speedway.

As a result, the leaders were bunched in two-car pairs as opposed to the multi-car packs that were the trademark at Daytona in previous years.

But the big pack of cars still prevailed in the middle of the field, and several contenders running in midpack lost their chance to win the 500 when they were part of the 14-car crash on Lap 29.

The drivers involved included reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and his teammates Jeff Gordon -- a three-time Daytona 500 winner -- along with Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip and his teammate David Reutimann.

Johnson and Gordon returned the race after repairs but were several laps behind the leaders.

-- Jim Peltz, reporting from Daytona Beach, Fla.

Photo: Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 56 Toyota is followed by Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Ford during the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Credit: Jerry Lai / US Presswire

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