Jimmie Johnson ended his run of poor Daytona 500 results by holding off Hendrick Chevrolet team-mate Dale Earnhardt Jr to win NASCAR's premier race for the second time.
Johnson was a factor near the front throughout a largely processional event, battling side by side with reigning champion Brad Keselowski's Penske Ford going into the closing stages.
As Keselowski's car, battered from previous incidents, lost ground at a late restart, Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle and Stewart-Haas' Danica Patrick lined up to challenge Johnson.
Despite predictions that she would swiftly fall back from pole position, Patrick spent much of the race in the top three, becoming the first woman to lead the Daytona 500 along the way.
But on the final lap Patrick and Biffle were both caught out when Earnhardt and Michael Waltrip Racing's Mark Martin came surging down the inside line.
Johnson had just enough of an edge to beat his team-mate by 0.129 seconds, with Earnhardt and Martin completing the top three ahead of Keselowski.
The result was the first time Johnson had finished in the top 25 in the Daytona 500 since his 2006 win.
Patrick ended up eighth, behind Ryan Newman, Biffle and Regan Smith.
Underdogs Michael McDowell (Phil Parsons Racing) and JJ Yeley (Tommy Baldwin Racing) secured big pay days by finishing in the final top 10 spots.
Keselowski's Penske Ford sustained its damage in the two major pile-ups of the first three quarters of the race.
Duel winner Kevin Harvick and three-time champion Tony Stewart were both eliminated in the race's first multi-car crash, collected in a chain reaction after Kyle Busch tapped Kasey Kahne into a spin on lap 33.
Keselowski had a minor role in that tangle, then starred in the second on lap 13, when a touch from Trevor Bayne sent him bouncing over the grass.
While the champion managed to rejoin, 2011 Daytona winner Bayne spun and took out a host of drivers including Carl Edwards and rookie Austin Dillon, who had earlier been a top-three factor.
Toyota filled the top six places heading towards the final stint, only for a string of engine failures to strike its top teams. Matt Kenseth led the most laps on his debut for Joe Gibbs Racing, but had to park just before the same fate befell team-mate Busch.
Waltrip driver Martin Truex Jr's Toyota also wilted while in the top three late on.
Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin finished 11th and 14th having earlier fought for the lead.
Jeff Gordon got around front row partner Patrick to lead at the start and stayed there until the first pitstops.
But he dropped back thereafter as he had to nurse an overheating Chevrolet, and was only 20th at the flag.
Results - 200 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 3h10m14.000s
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.129s
3. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 0.255s
4. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford + 0.359s
5. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 0.477s
6. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 0.524s
7. Regan Smith Phoenix Chevrolet + 0.626s
8. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 0.658s
9. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford + 0.691s
10. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet + 0.731s
11. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 0.827s
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford + 1.176s
13. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 1.198s
14. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 1.279s
15. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 1.542s
16. David Reutimann BK Toyota + 2.273s
17. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 5.306s
18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 8.581s
19. Joey Logano Penske Ford + 9.266s
20. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 11.216s
21. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 18.220s
22. Michael Waltrip Swan Toyota + 19.788s
23. Scott Speed Leavine Ford + 20.714s
24. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 24.753s
25. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 1 lap
26. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford + 1 lap
27. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 2 laps
28. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 2 laps
29. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 18 laps
30. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 24 laps*
31. Austin Dillon Childress Chevrolet + 24 laps
32. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 38 laps
33. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 40 laps
* Not running at chequered flag
Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 151 laps
David Ragan Front Row Ford 150 laps
Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 150 laps**
Matt Kenseth Gibbs Toyota 149 laps
David Gilliland Front Row Ford 144 laps
Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 144 laps**
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 137 laps
Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 118 laps**
Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 47 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 42 laps
** Running again at chequered flag