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Pace car catches fire as Denny Hamlin starts final Sprint Unlimited segment in lead

Feb 15, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

Sprint Unlimited

It’ll be a 20-lap shootout, starting with a mandatory pit stop, to see who wins tonight’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won the second segment, a 25-lap excursion that saw nearly half the field eliminated in a nine-car wreck that was triggered when Matt Kenseth came down on Joey Logano, leading to mayhem.

Hamlin was first off pit road to restart the final segment in the lead. Only one of the nine remaining drivers – which started with an 18-driver field – took four tires for the last segment, that being Ryan Newman, starting his tenure with Richard Childress Racing.

All other drivers took two tires and added fuel.

Hamlin led 24 of the first 55 laps across the first two segments.

And as if to add insult to injury, the pace car caught fire on the pace laps to prepare to start the final segment. The pace car was quickly brought to a halt and track fire and safety personnel converged upon it to put out the small blaze — certainly nothing like the inferno that took place in the 2012 Daytona 500 when Juan Pablo Montoya slammed into the rear of a track jet dryer.

Blame the full moon – that’s as logical an explanation as anything of such a strange night.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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