Harvick, declared the winner of NASCAR’s biggest race by 0.020 seconds, said he wasn’t thinking about the color of the flags. “Mark got back in front of me for just a split second there, and all I was thinking about was getting to the finish line,” he said of the two-lap overtime dash to finish the race. After crossing the line, Martin, sounding stunned, said on his radio: “They waited. We were ahead. They just left the green out while they were wrecking.” Later, Martin said he wasn’t waiting for a yellow flag and never slowed down. “NASCAR was doing their best to get an exciting finish for the Daytona 500,” he said. “I had no idea what happened behind me. I was ahead when they were wrecking. My spotter said they were wrecking. My focus was basically on beating the (No.) 29 (Harvick) to the line.” Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin raced the final few hundred yards to the finish line at close to 200 mph, separated by just inches. Just behind them, seven cars crashed, and those still in the big lead pack banged and bounced off each other. COMMENTARY Asked if he thought the race was over when the cars began crashing behind him, he said, “I never saw a yellow flag, and I kept racing with everything that I had. I’ve been racing for over 30 years. I know one thing for sure, I never thought twice about the prospect of the race going yellow. “I could hope, because we were ahead at one time, coming off the (fourth) corner we were still ahead.” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the yellow flag did not come out until after Harvick and Martin had crossed the line, even though the crashing began when the two leaders were a couple hundred yards from the finish. He explained it by saying the cars that were crashing were “already off the track and on the apron,” adding NASCAR did throw the yellow flag when Clint Bowyer’s Chevrolet flipped onto its roof, slid through the grass and caught on fire. “At that point, the 29 was ahead of the 01 (Martin) and had taken the checkered flag,” Poston said. That explanation didn’t please everyone, but Martin, a longtime NASCAR star, said he wasn’t going to complain. “Nobody wants to hear a grown man cry, all right?” Martin said. “That’s what it is, and I’m not going to cry about it. That’s the end.” It was a weird finish to one of the wildest Daytona 500s ever. The race was pretty dull through the first 150 laps, with two caution flags for minor incidents and the field running mostly single file. After darkness fell and the cars began to handle better, the race got, well, racier. There were five multi-car wrecks in the final 50 laps, including the big one at the end. The wild finish was set up by a three-car crash on the backstretch just five laps from the scheduled 200-lap distance. NASCAR red-flagged the race long enough to clean up the mess in turn two, restarted the cars under caution and didn’t put the green flag back out until lap 201 for the two-lap overtime dash – what they call a green-white-checker finish. As the leaders drove off turn four, Kyle Busch, who started the final lap just behind leader Martin, skidded out of control and hit Matt Kenseth. Before the melee was over, three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon, two-time winner Sterling Marlin, Greg Biffle, Elliott Sadler and Bowyer all were sitting battered in the grass. “It looked like the (No.) 5 got loose, and then we all wrecked,” said Biffle, referring to Busch. “It’s the biggest race of the year. You wait until there’s 10 to go, and you go. That’s what I did.” Jeff Burton, Harvick’s RCR teammate who somehow got through the crash unscathed, called the final wreck a shame but said, “The risk versus reward ration changes as the laps wind down. “At the end, we’re racing harder than we should. There’s just not enough grip to take it that last step, and you saw what happened.” “I hate late-race cautions in restrictor-plate races,” Burton said. “I was happy to see it because we needed it, but you know in the Daytona 500, it’s going to get ugly.” This one was uglier than most. Mike Harris covers motor racing for The Associated Press. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Where was the yellow flag? NASCAR’s rules dictate that the field order is frozen the moment the yellow flag flies and the caution lights come on around the track. On Sunday, in the key moment of the Daytona 500, the green flag stayed out as chaos ensued.