Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finally made his way into Victory Lane at Daytona after winning his first 500 and his first Cup win since 2017.
A Clean Run at Daytona? Yes, a Clean Run
Action off at a very unusual pace for the Word Center of Racing. The first stage went by without a single caution. Cars got shoved around multiple times, Bubba Wallace even got close and personal with the wall, but still, no yellow flag to be seen. Kyle Busch’s new car was proven a competitive machine; RCR’s number eight worked well on its own but wasn’t the best of pushers when it came to drafting. Not that it mattered so early in the race.
A few other things to note were the part-timers: Jimmie Johnson and Travis Pastrana. The latter being more of a “guest” rather than an in-and-out presence. Both drivers started the race next to one another, the seven-time champion at the 39th spot and the X Games gold medalist in last place.
Despite not having a single practice lap before the duels, Johnson made the best out of his experience and put his 84 car (which he owns) in seventh place by the end of the first 60 laps. Pastrana on the other hand only made three spots, nonetheless, his car was still running and that was all that matter to the stunt driver. Ricky Stenhouse was nowhere to be found by then, he ran 24th.
And then We Go Racing…
The first caution of the evening came on stage 2. Kevin Harvick started his farewell tour bumping into Tyler Reddick. Michael Jordan’s newest acquisition went sideways into the wall and collected six cars on his way down after the bump.
Other than that, the second set of laps had few incidents. Fuel was yet not much of a problem and only Ty Gibbs had to abandon the race. Joe Gibbs’ 54 Camry ended up in the wall the hardest after Reddick’s crash and could not continue.
Stenhouse Jr., who was still having a very quiet night, was third and like, everyone else at Daytona, looking for a chance to climb to the top.
Cautions Bring Cautions
The final stage of The Great American Race was looking like a somewhat uneventful segment in a very smooth 500. That was until the actual drive to win at the beach kicked in and everybody wanted to gain spots
That exact thing happened to Michael McDowell when he made contact with Ryan Preece. As if the crash wasn’t bad enough for the Connecticut native, almost the entirety of Stewart-Haas Racing was involved in the accident as well. By the time of impact, there were only 18 laps to go, after cleaning the debris that number was going to go down considerably.
The car that didn’t push, the same one driven by the younger of the Busch brothers was on the very top of the field for the win with only two turns of the oval to go. Misfortune was ahead of Las Vegas’ most polarizing driver as Daniel Suarez spun and brought a yellow flag. Not only that, but Overtime was also up next: two more laps, or so we thought.
If you Can do it Once, You Can do it Twice
Into Overtime we went and running didn’t last long, to say the least. Half a speedway after the flag dropped, William Byron got into the number 3 of Austin Dillon, and wrecking they were again. Yet another set of two laps was needed to find our winner.
The second time was the charm, although not by much. The first lap of what was formerly known as the “Green-White-Checkered” posed no problem as Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Stenhouse Jr. fought for the lead.
Last lap saw Kyle Larson slam the wall hard and bring out the final caution of the night. There was no going back however and the race was to be decided by nothing but final position at the time of the yellow flag.
Stenhouse Jr. won the biggest of them all by half a car after a record 212 laps of running.
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