DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcame a late race speeding penalty to become the third straight first-time winner in the sold out 65th annual Daytona 500. Stenhouse Jr. went from 24th at the end of the first stage to fourth in Stage 2. He was in the hunt the rest of way until he was caught speeding on his final pit stop on Lap 178.
That could have been the dagger.
“Once we sped on pit road, kind of thought our race was over, but felt like the good Lord was watching out for us,” Stenhouse said.
However, a seven-car melee in Turn 2 brought out the fifth caution of the day which allowed Stenhouse to be able to stay on the lead lap. He’d restart 22nd though in a race to where track position was crucial.
“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 1,” Stenhouse continued. “That gave us a second chance, and I knew that my team was — 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, just trying to get — really wasn’t trying to get everything out of it, but got a little too much.
“So 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.”
Stenhouse wouldn’t get denied. His No. 47 Chevrolet rocketed up to sixth shortly after the race would get restarted and was back in the race again for the win. The thing was, both RFK Racing cars and the pair of Richard Childress Racing entries were in the top four and it appeared that Stenhouse would get lucky just to get back into the top five at the end.
Daniel Suarez bunched the field back up when he spun on the front stretch with three laps remaining. The RCR tandem of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon had just pushed the RFK duo out of the way a few laps prior and did so with drafting help from fellow Chevrolet driver William Byron. It was 3 against 2.
Joey Logano and teammate Austin Cindric closed in but chose not to help Keselowski or Buescher. That helped Stenhouse.
On the choose, it was Busch, Dillon, Byron, Logano, Larson, Keselowski then Stenhouse. On the restart, Stenhouse went from 7th to 1st before a 13 car pileup in Turn 3. Remarkably, he was now in charge.
Stenhouse led the overtime restart and brief1ly lost the lead while taking the white flag. Joey Logano had drafting help up top but Stenhouse found a push and an assist from fellow dirt track racer Christopher Bell. It was enough to push Stenhouse ahead in Turn 2 and while doing so, another six car accident occurred behind.
At the time of the eighth and final caution, Stenhouse was shown ahead of Logano and would celebrate his third career NASCAR Cup Series win and first of which outside of Roush.
It also snapped a 199-race winless drought with his last trip to victory lane coming right here on these Daytona International Speedway grounds on July 1, 2017. That was his lone Daytona win in 21 prior starts. He was 0-for-11 in the Great American Race entering this year’s Speedweeks.
JTG-Daugherty hadn’t found Victory Lane since Allmendinger triumphed at Watkins Glen in 2014, a drought of 266 races. It was a remarkable victory and a perfect highlight for the 75th anniversary of NASCAR racing. Stenhouse is the first driver from a single-car team to win the Great American Race since Trevor Bayne shocked the racing world with the Wood Brothers Racing in 2011.
Stenhouse Jr’s 10 Daytona finishes between his 2017 win and Sunday’s? 29th, 17th, 13th, 24th, 20th, 32nd, 18th, 22nd, 28th, 22nd.
“Yeah, I think this whole off-season Mike just preached how much we all believed in each other,” a jubilant Stenhouse Jr. said. “They left me a note in the car that said they believe in me and to go get the job done tonight. I made a few mistakes. We were able to battle back.
“This Kroger Continental team worked really, really hard in off-season, great pit stops, Hendrick engines. Glad a Chevy won.
“Man, this is unbelievable. This was the site of my last win back in 2017. We’ve worked really hard. We had a couple shots last year to get a win and fell short. It was a tough season, but man, we got it done, Daytona 500.”
Defending series champion, Logano, scored his 150th career Top-5 finish with a runner-up in his No. 22 Ford. It was Logano’s first Daytona top 5 finish since the 2019 Daytona 500. At that time, he had finished 1st, 6th, 6th, 4th and 4th respectively in a 5 year Daytona 500 span.
Since that mark, he was 26th in 2020, 12th in 2021 and 21st a year ago.
“Second is the worst, man. You’re so close,” Logano said. “Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push and, yeah, you’re watching in the mirror and you’re three wide across there. I felt like the three wide was going a hurt a 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 just caution came out — you wish you could race to the end. Obviously you can’t when they wreck that much.
“Congratulations to Ricky. There’s nothing like winning the Daytona 500. That’s why it stings so much finishing second.
“Still proud of the team, still proud of the effort coming off the championship last year and bringing this Shell-Pennzoil Mustang back toward the front and getting a Ford close to the front. Wish it was in Victory Lane, though.”
Bell was third in his No. 20 Toyota for his first top 10 finish at Daytona. He was previously 21st, 16th and 34th in his previous three Daytona 500 tries.
“Yeah, if you would have told me pre-race I was going to run third, I would have jumped up and down and been smiling ear to ear, which I am very happy and very, very thankful that I could get this Rheem and DeWalt Camry a good solid finish,” said Bell.
“But man, just so close to a crown jewel. I feel like if it would have stayed green I would have been on offense, and obviously who knows. But very proud and thankful to be here and Joe Gibbs Racing, and happy for Ricky. That’s really cool. Very, very happy for Ricky.”
Chris Buescher and pole sitter Alex Bowman rounded out the top five.
At 212 laps (530 miles), this DAYTONA 500 was three laps and 7.5 miles longer than the 2020 race, which held the previous record.
Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet, finished 24th – the highest finishing rookie. … There were 204 Green Flag Passes for the Lead – most all-time in a race at Daytona International Speedway – easily eclipsing the previous record mark of 177 set in 2014 DAYTONA 500. …There were 21 different race leaders – tying the 2010 mark for second most all-time. …The 52 lead changes were fourth all-time; and most since 2011 (74).
Choose Rule Key
We all wondered how the choose rule would work as it was the first time ever that it was used at Daytona. It helped Stenhouse massively in the end. With RCR teammates Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon lining up 1-2 in the first overtime restart, they decided to split the front row instead of lining up Dillon behind Busch. The plan was for Dillon to slow the inside lane just enough to allow Busch to slide down.
Unfortunately for them, it halted their momentum too much which as a result, allowed Joey Logano and his drafting help from the top line to bum rush them. Stenhouse had a run and used it to maneuver himself from fourth to first in the train.
“Yeah, when the 8 went to the bottom there I was able to push the 22 and the 5,” Stenhouse said. “We had a huge run. I was hoping we were going to get to the white there, and we didn’t, so I knew I was going to take the top. I was hoping the 22 was going to follow, and he did. He was able to push us out.
“I went to the bottom, the 8 and the 22 got a huge run. The 5 split me in the middle, but another fellow dirt racer with Bell gave me a good shot down the little short chute into 1, and we were out front when the caution came out. We were out of fuel so the fuel light was going crazy.”
Busch, Keselowski Still Shutout In Daytona 500
Brad Keselowski led the most laps (42) in Sunday’s Daytona 500. He was leading the race with four to go. He didn’t win…again. Kyle Busch passed Keselowski on Lap 196 and was well on his way to scoring his first Daytona 500 in 18 tries. However, Daniel Suarez spun a lap later and brought out the caution, sending this race into OT.
Busch and Keselowski ended up in the same Lap 212 crash and was scored 19th (Busch) and 22nd (Keselowski) respectively.
Busch is now 0-for-18. Keselowski 0-for-14.
Busch, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, approached the dais Wednesday during DAYTONA 500 Media Day, he noticed a lottery ticket next to the microphone—a leftover item from the earlier announcement of PowerBall as an official NASCAR partner.
“Better chance of winning that than the DAYTONA 500,” Busch quipped, mindful of his 20.24 average finish in the Great American Race.
He’s only had one top five here since 2017 too and just three of his 18 starts in the Great American Race resulting in a top five finish.
While leading on Lap 180 in 2020’s edition, his car started having problems. A lap later, Busch said his engine blew and would slowly ride around the track. That was partially a blessing in disguise as he avoided the Lap 183 “Big One” two laps later.
“We’ll just keep going down in history of figuring out new ways to lose it,” Busch said that year.
He’s now led the most laps (330) of all drivers who’ve never won the ‘500.
For Keselowski, he just mentioned on Saturday how much the third and fourth cars can control the ending of these races, not the leader.
He led 67 laps in last year’s race and was in the hunt at the end. The year prior, he was running second on the final lap before a crash just one mile from the finish with teammate Joey Logano. Those haunt him. This one likely will too, especially for the fact that RFK Racing was sitting 1-2 with four laps left in regulation.
“The DAYTONA 500, to me over the years, has probably been more focused on the speed of the cars and the willingness of the drivers to make bold moves,” Keselowski said. “I think, accordingly, I haven’t been able to close the 500 out. We’ve had really fast cars and caught some really poor breaks and then there have been some races where I felt like I didn’t execute at a high enough level. I think there’s probably a little mixture of all those things on why I haven’t been able to win this race.”
Keselowski has 37 points paying in NASCAR’s premiere series. 6 of them have occurred at Talladega. He’s also won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in July of 2016 as well as the Clash in 2019 here plus a Duel win a year ago.
It’s just that the ‘500 has escaped him. If he can get there on Sunday, it will complete the cycle of crown jewel’s on NASCAR’s schedule.
“It’s the last crown jewel I don’t have,” Keselowski added. “I’ve got the championship, the Brickyard [at Indianapolis] and the Southern 500 (at Darlington, S.C.) and the Bristol Night races and the Talladegas. Those mean the world to me, they really do, but the DAYTONA 500 is still the biggest race of the year no matter how you look at it and it still stings to not have it. It stings to have been so close in so many different ways.”
They’re not the only ones with long winless streaks here. Martin Truex Jr. is 0-for-19. Yes, he swept both stages last year, but he also still finished 13th too in doing so. He’s 0-for-74 in drafting races if you include both Atlanta events last season and has scored just 6 top 5’s in those 74 starts. He has 3 top 5’s in 36 Daytona tries at that.
Even the greats take years to accomplish a win in the Great American Race while some never do it. Terry Labonte was 0-for-32. Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd each 0-for-29. Bobby Labonte was 0-for-24. Rusty Wallace was 0-for-23. Tony Stewart (0-for-17), Carl Edwards (0-for-12) and Ned Jarrett (0-for-7) never won either.
Hendrick Motorsports Still Winless
Qualifying trim is one thing. Race pace is purely another. That’s the thing that’s puzzled the Hendrick Motorsports camp when they’ve come down to the Daytona Speedweeks for much of the last decade. They know how to qualify here. They just struggle to finish.
I’ve written about it in each of the last three years now on if Hendrick Motorsports could finally turn around those top starting spots and make them into some Daytona 500 success. Unfortunately, they still haven’t.
While HMS has won 7 poles in the last 8 years to go along with 6 of those being front row sweeps, they’ve yet to win the Great American Race in that span too.
Alex Bowman did score his first Daytona top 5 in 14 starts and became the first pole sitter to score a top 5 finish since Bill Elliott in 2001, but at the end of the day, he didn’t win.
Bowman led four times for 12 laps and dominated early, but by being in the clean air up front, he was wasting more gas than the others. So, on his first stop, he’d need more fuel and drop from 1st to 26th. He’d finish 28th in the opening stage. He’d rebound back up to 2nd at the second stage break but would make an incredible save on Lap 138. He’d run most of the rest of the way outside the top 15 before charging back up for a top five in the end.
“It’s the Daytona 500, and we know how to crash some stuff,” Bowman said. “It was just super aggressive and a lot of pushing. You know you have to do it and sometimes they go wrong and crashes happen. Just proud of my team and glad we were able to make it out clean. Just starting the year off strong on the right foot. Not only here but at the Coliseum as well. I enjoy California. It’s been hit or miss for me, but looking forward to getting back there.”
Second place starter Kyle Larson restarted on the front row for the final restart, but was shuffled to the middle lane on the final lap. Unfortunately, he crashed in Turn 2 while doing so and would drop to an 18th place finish. Larson has never won a superspeedway race and has just 1 top 5 in 36 starts on them at that. He was 32nd and 37th at Daytona last year.
The finishing positions of the HMS pole winners since this streak began in 2015?
5th, 37th, 11th, 24th, 26th, 24th and 5th respectively.
The second place starters when they’ve started there?
33rd, 37th, 14th, 17th, 21st, 35th, 32nd and 18th respectively.
William Byron was third quickest in qualifying on Saturday and also in the hunt towards the end. However, he was collected in that Lap 202 crash and would finish 34th. His Daytona 500 finishes? 23rd, 21st, 40th, 26th, 38th and now 34th respectively.
“I got into (Kyle Busch), and we just got off center somehow and I wrecked him,” said Byron. “Once he got off center, I tried to back up but I had (Brad Keselowski) in the back of me trying to push as well. Yeah, unfortunate because we were trying to put ourselves in the right position and we were in a really good spot there with about two to go and running third before that caution. It seemed like when they did the teammate restart it really checked up the bottom lane and I had made my bed of trying to take that lane to have momentum off of turn two. That was unfortunate.”
Chase Elliott also crashed on Lap 117 and was scored in 38th at the end. Elliott’s other Daytona 500 finishes are – 37th, 14th, 33rd, 17th, 17th, 2nd and 10th respectively.
“It looked like some guys got tangled up, upfront,” Elliott said. “Those of us in the back were just scattering to kind of miss it. It looked like (Kyle Larson) and (Erik Jones) kind of went to the apron. By the time we got slowed up, they were coming back across the track and I was the lucky winner to get there first. It’s a bummer. Long ways to go. Hate to end the day, but it is what it is.”
That’s 3 badly damaged race cars for HMS in one race.
Day For Rebounds
On a day where making your way from the back of the pack to the front was challenging, the top finishers all rebounded to good days in the end.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was speeding on pit road 22 laps from the scheduled distance and won.
Christopher Bell entered his first pit stop on the day in the lead. He was only 26th at the end of the first stage. He was 10th at Stage 2 but ran over pit equipment on his way out and had to serve a penalty. He’d rebound to finish third.
Alex Bowman, like Bell, dropped early after his first pit stop and was 28th at the end of the first stage. He spun on Lap 138 and finished fifth.
AJ Allmendinger was a lap down in 33rd at the end of the first stage. He finished 6th.
Daniel Suarez spun on Lap 197 and finished seventh.
Ryan Blaney had some damage from the Lap 117 crash but still came away with a top 10 in eighth.
Ross Chastain was collected in that Lap 202 crash. He finished 9th.
Riley Herbst spun heading to pit road on his first top. He was 38th (-2) at the first stage break. He was 34th (-2) at the second stage break. He finished 10th.
Travis Pastrana was 37th (-1) at the first stage break. He was 32nd (-1) at the second stage break. He came home 11th.
It was a day for redemption.
Score One For The Dirt Guys
The first 34 laps of the day were led by dirt track guys. In fact, 37 of the first 38 overall were. They’d have 3 drivers (Stenhouse Jr., Bell, Larson) in the top four at the white flag. While Larson crashed, Bowman filled his gap and gave us three dirt guys in the top five at the end including two in the top three.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – DAYTONA 500
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
Sunday, February 19, 2023
1. (31) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 212.
2. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 212.
3. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 212.
4. (9) Chris Buescher, Ford, 212.
5. (1) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 212.
6. (29) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 212.
7. (24) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 212.
8. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 212.
9. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 212.
10. (38) Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 212.
11. (40) Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 212.
12. (13) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 212.
13. (17) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 212.
14. (35) Cody Ware, Ford, 212.
15. (16) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 212.
16. (12) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 212.
17. (18) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 212.
18. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.
19. (36) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.
20. (15) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 211.
21. (4) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 211.
22. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 211.
23. (6) Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 210.
24. (22) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 210.
25. (33) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 210.
26. (19) Harrison Burton, Ford, 210.
27. (14) Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 208.
28. (11) Michael McDowell, Ford, 208.
29. (34) Conor Daly(i), Chevrolet, 206.
30. (32) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 204.
31. (39) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
32. (28) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
33. (27) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 202.
34. (21) William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 202.
35. (30) Chase Briscoe, Ford, Accident, 182.
36. (20) Ryan Preece, Ford, Accident, 181.
37. (25) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 118.
38. (8) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 118.
39. (26) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, Accident, 117.
40. (37) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Engine, 26.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 145.283 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 38 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 38 laps.
Lead Changes: 52 among 21 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Bowman 0;K. Larson 1;A. Bowman 2-10;K. Larson 11-12;C. Bell 13-20;K. Larson 21-23;C. Bell 24-34;A. Almirola 35;A. Bowman 36-37;C. Bell 38;*. Pastrana 39-40;D. Hamlin 41;C. Briscoe 42;D. Hamlin 43-47;C. Briscoe 48-51;M. Truex Jr. 52-64;B. Keselowski 65-67;R. Preece 68-71;B. Keselowski 72;A. Almirola 73;B. Keselowski 74-76;A. Almirola 77-79;B. Keselowski 80;A. Almirola 81;B. Keselowski 82-108;K. Harvick 109;J. Logano 110;R. Blaney 111;J. Logano 112-115;C. Buescher 116;J. Logano 117;C. Buescher 118-121;J. Logano 122-125;R. Chastain 126;J. Logano 127;R. Chastain 128-132;A. Bowman 133;B. Wallace 134-137;A. Almirola 138-142;B. Wallace 143;A. Almirola 144-145;C. Buescher 146;A. Almirola 147-148;C. Buescher 149-153;A. Almirola 154;C. Buescher 155-175;D. Suarez 176-178;H. Burton 179-187;J. Logano 188;A. Allmendinger 189;B. Keselowski 190-196;K. Busch 197-202;R. Stenhouse Jr. 203-212.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Brad Keselowski 6 times for 42 laps; Chris Buescher 5 times for 32 laps; Christopher Bell 3 times for 20 laps; Aric Almirola 8 times for 16 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 13 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 12 laps; Joey Logano 6 times for 12 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 10 laps; Harrison Burton 1 time for 9 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 6 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 6 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 6 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 6 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 5 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 5 laps; Ryan Preece 1 time for 4 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 3 laps; * Travis Pastrana 1 time for 2 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 1 lap; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 6,41,17,4,34,54,84,10,19,38
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,48,47,22,2,19,24,16,17,20