Ricky Stenhouse Jr. snaps winless streak in Daytona 500

It was poised to be one of the quicker Daytona 500s in recent memory, but instead turned into the longest. A series of late wrecks including one on the final lap (completing a dubious weekend sweep of all three NASCAR national series races at Daytona ending with a last-lap crash) along with a late Chevrolet rally propelled Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to his first Cup Series win in over five years.

Daniel Suárez‘s spin through the grass with three laps remaining set up overtime and broke up what would have been a battle between RFK Racing and Richard Childress Racing for the win. RCR, a Chevrolet outfit, held the early advantage as overtime began before Duel #1 winner Joey Logano, with a push from Stenhouse, moved ahead until a thirteen-car crash resulted in another restart. Stenhouse and Logano duelled over the next lap and a half before another multi-car pile-up occurred behind them, sparking a caution.

Upon review (for the second straight night), Stenhouse was found to be ahead of Logano for the lead when the yellow flag came out, declaring him the winner. It is his third career win, all of which have come on superspeedways, with the last being 2,060 days ago on 1 July 2017 at the second Daytona race. His JTG Daugherty Racing team also enjoyed their second win and first since A.J. Allmendinger at Watkins Glen in 2014.

Stenhouse had to rebound from a late speeding penalty, and received help from his fellow Chevrolet drivers William Byron and RCR’s Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon; Busch had been the leader prior to overtime. The quartet got by RFK’s Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher before Stenhouse squared off with Logano.

“Once we sped on pit road, kind of thought our race was over, but felt like the good Lord was watching out for us. I was serving the penalty, and then all of a sudden, had a big wreck right there kind of where we were running, getting in turn one,” said Stenhouse. “That gave us a second chance. Tuesday’s meeting was not going to be very good because we preached all off-season about not beating ourselves, and there I went speeding on pit road, really wasn’t trying to get everything out of it, but got a little too much.

“I felt like once the caution came out, I really had to kind of put my elbows up and get back to the front to give us another shot to win so I at least could tell my guys that we had a shot to win.”

Logano settled for second while Christopher Bell was third.

“Second is the worst, man. You’re so close,” commented Logano. “Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push and you’re watching in the mirror and you’re three wide across there. I felt like the three-wide was going to hurt the lane, looked like Kyle was getting pushed ahead, and then Ricky started getting pushed ahead. I knew if I went to the bottom, my car didn’t handle good enough. I already got pushed off the bottom once and I thought, ‘If I go down there, I’m probably going to get wrecked,’ and I don’t know if I can get down there in time to throw the block and so I didn’t want to wreck my car either.

“Then you don’t expect them to wreck either. You think you’re racing to the checkered flag and you put yourself in the best position to try to win at the start-finish line, and caution came out, you wish you could race to the end. Obviously you can’t when they wreck that much.”

Bell, on the other hand, was more than pleased with his result and remarked, “If you would have told me pre-race that I was going to run third, I would have jumped up and down and been smiling ear-to-ear. I’m very happy. I’m very, very thankful that I could get this Rheem and DeWalt Toyota Camry a good solid finish, but just so close to a crown jewel. I feel like if it would have stayed green, I would have been on offense, but who knows.”

The late crashes resulted in the race running 212 laps total, a stark contrast to the first half when it ran completely green for 118 laps save for the scheduled Stage #1 break. Most incidents during this stretch were relatively minor, ranging from Conor Daly falling off the pace from the start due to his rear-view mirror being broken to Bubba Wallace being clipped by Martin Truex Jr. while racing for the lead. Daly recovered to finish twenty-ninth, while Wallace clawed his way back into the top ten before being collected in the final wreck.

As expected out of Daytona, team and manufacturer strategy played a key role throughout the day including the aforementioned overtime scrambles. This resulted in Fords occupying the top five at the end of the first stage led by Keselowski, while Chevrolets returned the favour in Stage #2 with Ross Chastain leading pole winner Alex Bowman and Stenhouse.

Also on par for superspeedway racing, many of those with success would eventually find themselves knocked out. This was especially the case for Stewart-Haas Racing, who had all four drivers be involved in crashes with three—Chase Briscoe, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Preece—among the victims of a seven-car accident on lap 183.

23XI Racing, typically a force on superspeedways, was also not safe. Besides the aforementioned roller coaster that Wallace underwent, Tyler Reddick‘s stint with the team began on a sour note when he was caught up in the first wreck of the day on lap 119. Travis Pastrana, a fan favourite making his Cup début, had an especially tumultuous 500 as he led two laps during the green-flag pit cycle before suffering a speeding penalty, forcing him to slowly climb back through the order via attrition until the last-lap crash. Unlike his peers, Pastrana was able to bring the car home just shy of the top ten in eleventh.

Riley Herbst, who like Pastrana came from an off-road background, finished ahead of him by one spot for Rick Ware Racing‘s seventh top ten in his maiden Cup start. Fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney had a severely wounded Mustang following the lap 118 crash but escaped with an eighth-place run.

“It was long and a lot of riding, not really racing,” Herbst remarked. “I was kind of biding my time and trying to get experience. To finish top ten was really cool. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here in the Cup Series and really happy with the finish in our first 500.”

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 31 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 212 Running
2 3 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 212 Running
3 5 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 212 Running
4 9 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 212 Running
5 1 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 212 Running
6 29 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 212 Running
7 24 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 212 Running
8 7 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 212 Running
9 23 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 212 Running
10 38 15 Riley Herbst* Rick Ware Racing Ford 212 Running
11 40 67 Travis Pastrana 23XI Racing Toyota 212 Running
12 13 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 212 Running
13 17 36 Zane Smith* Front Row Motorsports Ford 212 Running
14 35 51 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Ford 212 Running
15 16 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 212 Running
16 12 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 212 Running
17 18 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 212 Running
18 2 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 211 Accident
19 36 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 211 Accident
20 15 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 211 Accident
21 4 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 211 Accident
22 10 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 211 Accident
23 6 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 210 Accident
24 22 42 Noah Gragson Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 210 Running
25 33 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 210 Running
26 19 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 210 Running
27 14 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 208 Accident
28 11 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 208 Running
29 34 50 Conor Daly* The Money Team Racing Chevrolet 206 Running
30 32 78 B.J. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 204 Running
31 39 84 Jimmie Johnson Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 203 Accident
32 28 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 203 Accident
33 27 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 202 Accident
34 21 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 202 Accident
35 30 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 182 Accident
36 20 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 181 Accident
37 25 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 118 Accident
38 8 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 118 Accident
39 26 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 117 Accident
40 37 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 26 Engine
DNQ 13 Chandler Smith Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
DNQ 62 Austin Hill Beard Motorsports Chevrolet
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points