Four talking points from a dramatic Daytona 500

20th February 2023
Damien Smith

A timely shove from behind made Ricky Stenhouse Jr a surprise winner of America’s Great Race in a chaotic finish to the Daytona 500 on Sunday. A huge multi-car wreck in what was the second overtime period finally brought the curtain down on the 65th edition. Although Joey Logano was leading when the accident happened, Stenhouse Jr had nosed ahead when the caution period was called - and that made all the difference.


The wreck that changed the race

Reigning NASCAR Cup champion Logano was well placed to score his second Daytona 500 victory for Penske on lap 212, chased hard by Stenhouse Jr on what was supposed to be the penultimate white flag lap. Then Aric Almirola’s Ford made contact with the Toyota of Travis Pastrana – the X Games star making what he says will be his one and only start at the 500. Pastrana’s Camry clipped Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet which was sent up into the outside wall, and all hell broke loose. Caught up in the wreck was a long list of some of NASCAR’s biggest names: last year’s Daytona winner Austin Cindric, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney.

How Stenhouse nabbed the 'Big One'

The result was flipped by the press of a button that triggered the caution. It’s not who is leading when an accident happens that decides the winner, but who is in front when the yellow lights flash on – and in that moment Stenhouse Jr’s Chevrolet had edged ahead after a timely shove in the back by the third-placed Toyota of Christopher Bell. What a strange way to take the biggest win of your life.

“Whoever is up there [in race control] wasn’t quick enough on the trigger,” said a deflated Logano, who in the circumstances took the blow with admirable good grace. “They could have hit that maybe a second or two sooner. I would have given that guy half the [winner’s] purse. I would have given him the whole thing, actually.”


A win to end not one, but two long droughts

The victory marked a third in the NASCAR Cup for Stenhouse Jr and his first since he won the Daytona summer race in 2017 – breaking a losing streak of 199 races. It was also the first win for the single-car JTG-Daugherty team since AJ Allmendinger conquered Watkins Glen in 2014, 266 races ago. What a time and a place to end such barren runs.

Stenhouse Jr paid tribute to his crew chief Mike Kelley with whom he has been reunited over the winter, more than a decade since they claimed a pair of second-division NASCAR Xfinity titles together. “Man, this is unbelievable,” said the elated winner. “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!”


The longest Daytona 500 ever

The second overtime period made the 65th edition officially the longest Daytona 500 ever run, at the start of the 75th anniversary year for NASCAR stock car racing. At 212 laps it was actually the Daytona 530 this year, going three laps longer than the previous record set in 2020. The crazy conclusion followed what had been a relatively tame opening period to the race, which wasn’t brought under caution until lap 118 when contact between Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick triggered a nine-car pile-up. As ever in NASCAR, and particularly at the ‘Big One’, you can never predict what’s going to happen next – or who is going to win.

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