After being wrecked out while in position for the win last year, Olive Branch, Mississippi’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claimed victory in the 2023 Daytona 500.
The start of the 65th Great American Race was a fairly organized affair. Front-row Hendrick duo Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman swapped the lead between themselves multiple times throughout the first 20 laps until Christopher Bell in the #20 jumped to the point to give Toyota their first laps led all week. Daytona duel winner Aric Almirola would also jump up to the front and log a couple of laps in the top spot.
Lap 37 saw the first green flag pit stops of the day, with a majority of the Ford cars coming to pit road for either no tires or two. One lap later the majority of the field would join them as around 20 Chevys entered the pits. The next lap saw the final group of cars pit, which is where the #15 of Riley Herbst, making his debut in the Cup Series, would spin trying to get into the pits but would manage to gather it up and avoid a caution.
Once everything had cycled through, Denny Hamlin’s number #11 Camry was the car at the front of the field. This was until SHR’s Chase Briscoe took the lead on lap 49 until he was replaced out front by Bubba Wallace’s #23. However, Wallace received a bad push from his Toyota teammate Martin Truex Jr. and slammed into the wall hard with the right side of his car, and was forced into the pits to repair damages.
As we approached the end of stage one, the #19 held the lead while several drivers attempted to make moves. With three to go in the stage, the Fords, led by Brad Keselowski, made their move. At the white flag, Brad Keselowski’s #6 was out front from SHR’s Ryan Preece, Keselowski’s RFK teammate Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick. Coming down to the start/finish line Preece tried to make a move to the outside but Bad Brad held on and claimed the win in stage 1.
Stage 1 Results
After pit stops at the end of the stage, Preece was scored in front of Keselowski for the restart on lap 72, until Brad jumped out front and put the #41 in his mirror. Almirola managed to jump out front and score a lap led in the second stage until Keselowski and Preece checked out while a various array of characters tried to mount a challenge on the inside lane.
Keselowski led past the halfway point as lap 107 saw the second cycle of green flag pit stops when the Chevy cars began to stop, and a few laps later a small group of Fords followed, the Toyotas one lap after, and then the remaining Fords the lap later. When all was said and done, 2022 champion Joey Logano was out front as the pack was jumbled from the different groups catching each other.
This led to the first incident of the day. On lap 118, as Kevin Harvick’s #4 gave a bad push to the #45 of Reddick in the top lane, turning him into Blaney on the bottom and then back up the track, collecting favorites such as 2020 Champion Chase Elliott and Erik Jones. Blaney was able to continue but Elliott, Jones, and Reddick were done for the day.
With six to go in the stage, the race was restarted with the #22 and Truex in the #19 lining the front row. Logano led the first lap after the restart but was quickly faced with a challenge by last year’s series runner-up Ross Chastain in the #1. Logano and Chastain would swap the lead for a few laps until Chastain held on against Alex Bowman to score the second stage victory, with the Florida driver earning his first laps led in the Great American Race.
Stage 2 Results
Pit stops at the break led to the #23, who had been a lap down for the majority of the second stage, getting the lead with Almirola beside him. Almirola jumped out to the first spot until a caution for the debris from the wounded #12 of Blaney.
The restart happened with the #10 and #23 still at the head of the field and Almirola returned to his prior position as leader of the pack until Prosper, Texas’ Chris Buescher took the top spot and led a large chunk of laps.
Buescher led until lap 175 when the final round of green flag pit stops occurred. A group of Fords, led by the RFK duo pitted, followed by a small group of mixed manufacturers comprised of the #1, #15, #19, and the #67, who had led a lap during the first cycle of stops. Followed by another group of Fords and then the big pack of Chevys the lap after that. Once the final group had pit on lap 179, The Wood Brothers’ Harrison Burton had the lead.
No more than a few laps later, however, the second accident of the day would occur. A stack-up caused by everyone catching up to each other at once led to a stack-up where the #41 was turned by the #34, sending both of them into the wall and collecting the #19, #14, and #4.
With 15 to go at the restart, it was officially crunch time as drivers were now desperate to make their move to the front. Burton and Logano led the restart, with Logano leading the next lap, and Allmendinger in the #16 sneaking to the front to the lead while Burton almost wrecked the car off of 4, but managed to gather it up.
With 10 to go, Keselowski managed to find a way around Allmendinger and to the point in the closing stages. RFK teammate Buescher held second followed by the RCR duo of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon, with William Byron behind them as the pack had formed a small breakaway from the rest of the field.
With four to go, the move was made. Busch’s #8 poked to the outside and Dillon went with him, putting Busch out front in the closing stages. Until Daniel Suárez spun coming off of 4 coming to two to go. The field was re-racked.
The RCR duo led the field into overtime, with Dillon on the inside allowing Busch to get down in front to allow the two to settle it between them. This was until the backstretch when the #22 got the lead, and then the #47 of Stenhouse took it from him immediately after.
Behind them, Dillon got out of shape and was turned into the #1 on his outside, triggering the big one. The accident collected the #24, the #38, who had been in position to win his duel on Thursday, defending 500 champ Austin Cindric, as well as seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Other involved include the #21, 15, #31, #36, and #42.
Under the ensuing caution, multiple cars pitted for fuel, including the RFK cars, as they were all anticipating another overtime restart.
The second overtime of the race got underway with Stenhouse Jr. on the outside and his buddy Kyle Larson in the #5 on his inside. They were dead even out of 2, with the #22 pushing Stenhouse and Bell in the #20 pushing Larson. Going into the third turn, the #8 gave the #22 a bump which shot Stenhouse into the lead.
Coming to the white, Stenhouse had a big lead with both lines bumper to bumper behind him. As they took the white, Larson tried to make a move to the outside but had no help and was put in the middle, as Logano went to the point going into turn 1 with Stenhouse fighting back on the bottom.
In turn 1, Aric Almirola, who had been running 10th, gave a bad push to Travis Pastrana’s #67, turning him down into Larson and causing the final big one, ending the race. The accident collected Bubba Wallace’s #23, Busch’s #8 along with Keselowski’s dominant #6.
After a few moments of deliberation, NASCAR officials declared Stenhouse Jr. as the winner of the 65th Running of the Daytona 500.
Logano and Bell finished second and third respectively. Buescher and Bowman rounded out the top-five. Allmendinger in sixth, Suárez in seventh, Blaney, who had been involved in the last lap accident, finished eighth, Chastain in ninth, and rookie Riley Herbst scoring his first Cup series top-10 in 10th.
Featured image credits: NASCAR on Twitter