The victory was the first since November 2007 for the Ford-driving former NASCAR champion, who started from the rear of the field after switching to a back-up vehicle.
"I was pretty miserable some nights because we just couldn't make our car handle," Kenseth said.
"This back-up car is actually way better than the 500 car. I felt pretty good going into this morning, but I didn't dream we were gonna win."
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The 2007 winner Kevin Harvick finished second in a Chevrolet with A.J. Allmendinger third in a Dodge.
Kenseth took the lead on lap 146 and when steady rain began to fall, NASCAR officials halted the race for 16 minutes before calling it off. The victory was his 17 career win.
"Just to win a race after our year last year," Kenseth said. "I didn't know if I was ever gonna do that again and then to pull off the Daytona 500, it's just unbelievable. "
Harvick had mixed emotions about missing out on a second Daytona 500 victory.
"It's also kind of bittersweet, I guess you could say, for the fact that Matt is the one that pushed me to my Daytona 500 win. It's kind of weird how that stuff works out."
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