Rebecca May Ristow | Managing Editor
On Sunday, February 19th, NASCAR kicked off its season with the 65th Daytona 500. This race is 200 laps, 500 miles, and 40 drivers, all competing for NASCAR’s most high-stakes and notable title. This year, the competition was stacked with both rookies and past-winners all hoping to be the first car past the finish line, or the car furthest ahead when the third caution flag is raised. So, how did this year’s race go? What were the biggest crashes, most insane passes, and how did this race become the longest Daytona in history?
One word: overtime.
NASCAR implemented overtime rules in the early 2000s, officially adopting the term “NASCAR Overtime” in 2016. It typically lasts two laps, but can be extended if a caution occurs within that time. This year, the race had so many last minute collisions that it only officially ended at 212 laps, or 530 miles. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 47) took the title by emerging ahead of 2015’s winner, Joey Logano, during the final lap in double overtime.
This is Stenhouse’s biggest title and only the third win of his entire Cup career. It's a special one for his team as it marks the end of a five year winless streak! This particular Daytona would have been his 200th NASCAR Cup Series race in a row without a win. Kudos to his entire team for their hard work in the off-season, which Stenhouse accredited the win to.
Coming into the 500th mile, the frontrunners were surely Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who had pulled into the front laps before. However, after a spin by Daniel Suarez the first caution and subsequent overtime was called. Stenhouse came up from the outside lane, pushing up several places. He pulled back inside to move into the top spot.
As Logano and Stenhouse fought in the front of the pack, William Byron and Austin Dillon’s 13-car collision during turn three sealed the fate of the back end of drivers. It also caused the second overtime. What finally ended the game was Kyle Larson’s failed move during turns one and two of the final overtime. As he created a multi-car crash behind the front runners, the track was thrown into yet another caution. As per NASCAR rules, the field was frozen at the same moment that Stenhouse slid ahead of Logano. The game was called, and Stenhouse had won by mere inches. The ending of the race felt like something out of a movie, complete with car crashes, surprise twists, and an underdog victory to seal the deal.
| "I made a few mistakes, we were able to battle back,"
Stenhouse announced as he celebrated the win. "I hope y'all had fun, that was a heck of a race," he added. Stenhouse finished the final lap with next to no fuel and went to Waffle House afterward, the Harley J. Earl trophy in hand.