After all the adversity and a long stretch of futility, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. can now call himself a Daytona 500 champion.
Stenhouse, driving the No. 47 Chevrolet, edged reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in double overtime to etch himself among the legends of racing with a victory in NASCAR’s most famous race.
Stenhouse, who had been winless in the series since capturing the summer race at Daytona in 2017, notched his third career Cup victory 199 races after first celebrating at Daytona.
“I made a few mistakes but I was able to battle back,” Stenhouse said. “The whole team worked really hard this offseason.
“I hope you all had fun. That was a heck of a race.”
The 65th annual Daytona 500 — the longest race by laps (212) and miles (530) in history — ended under caution when a multi-car crash broke out after the white flag flew. Stenhouse, who was the leader at the start of the second overtime, put just enough distance between himself and Logano, in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, to be declared the winner by NASCAR as the yellow flag flew.
Christopher Bell finished third, Chris Buescher fourth and pole-sitter Alex Bowman fifth.
“Second is the worst, man. You’re so close,” Logano, who won the 2015 race said. “Congratulations to Ricky. There’s nothing like winning the Daytona 500. That’s why it stings so much finishing second.”
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Stenhouse, 35, also gave single-car team JTG Daugherty Racing its biggest moment in racing. Tad Geschickter and his wife Jodi – the JTG in the name – joined with former NBA All-Star center Brad Daugherty to form the team in 2009, and prior to Sunday, the team had tasted victory just once – at Watkins Glen in 2014 with driver AJ Allmendinger.
JTG Daugherty Racing was the first single-car team to win the race since The Wood Brothers Racing did it with Trevor Bayne in 2011.
“WELL DONE @StenhouseJr x @JTGRacing. So proud of this entire team! #DAYTONA500,” Daugherty, who became the first Black owner to win a Daytona 500, tweeted.
Allmendinger, now driving for Kaulig Racing, was caught up in the final crash along with three former Cup Series champions: Kyle Larson (2021), Brad Keselowski (2012), Kyle Busch (2015, 2019). Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Travis Pastrana were also involved in the incident that helped seal the deal for Stenhouse at Daytona.
Larson was collected in the race-ending crash after he jumped out of line too early in an attempt to win the race.
“Happy that Ricky won. I’m super happy. That’s all I could think about after I crashed, waiting to hear that he won,” Larson said. “He’s one of my best friends, so I was like yelling into my helmet when I helped push him to the lead there. I was hoping it was going to stay green so it would have been me or him win.”
Overtime No. 1
In the first overtime, Austin Dillon, the 2018 Daytona 500 winner, spun out in his No. 3 Chevrolet when the front of the inside line got stacked up behind him. Dillon got bumped by William Byron in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, setting off a chain reaction, which collected 13 cars, including three other Daytona 500 winners – Hamlin (a three-time winner), Jimmie Johnson, who won it twice, and last year’s winner Austin Cindric – though Hamlin had minimal damage. Also involved: Stage 2 winner Ross Chastain, Keselowski, Riley Herbst, Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland and Noah Gragson.
Daniel Suarez, in the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, spun out with three laps remaining in the race to set up the first overtime finish. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Busch (No. 8 Chevrolet), seeking his first Daytona 500 win in his illustrious career, was leading Dillon, his Richard Childress Racing teammate, when the caution flag flew.
Pit stops breed calamity
Shortly after the final green-flag pit stops began on Lap 176 of 200, a couple of former Cup Series champions and a Daytona 500 winner got caught in some on-track chaos. As cars were spread out and trying to get back up to speed, Michael McDowell, the 2021 Daytona 500 champ, made contact with Ryan Preece, running 14th and 15th, causing Preece to spin and triggering a multi-car incident.
Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 series champion, and Kevin Harvick, who won the 2014 title, found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, as did Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe in the No. 14 Ford.
Chastain, in the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, edged Bowman (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) at the line to win the second stage. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet to third, Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) was fourth and Logano’s teammate, Austin Cindric, the 2022 Daytona 500 winner, was fifth in the No. 2 Ford.
Rounding out the top 10: Truex (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), Byron, AJ Allmendinger (No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet), Buescher (No. 17 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford) and Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota).
Welcome to the jungle
The first major incident occurred on Lap 118 of 200 when Tyler Reddick, battling for fourth in the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota, got loose after a bump from Kevin Harvick in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford. Reddick then careened into Blaney in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford and both cars spun out, setting off an eight-car accident.
Harvick, Larson (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet), Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet), Truex, Erik Jones (No. 43 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet) and Daniel Suarez (No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) all got a piece of the crash with Reddick, Elliott and Jones, in a Guns N’ Roses paint scheme, suffering the biggest damage and retiring from the race.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Bowman, who won the pole, and Larson, led the field to the green flag in the opening stage. The Chevrolet drivers looked strong early, but following green flag pit stops starting on Lap 37 of 65, Toyota drivers took control of the race. Ford would have the final say, however, with the manufacturer’s drivers claiming the top five spots and seven of the Top 10.
Owner/driver Brad Keselowski surged to the lead on the final lap in the Roush Fenway Keselowski No. 6, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Preece (41) finished second, Keselowski’s RFK teammate Buescher was third, Preece’ teammate Harvick was fourth, and 2021 Daytona 500 champ Michael McDowell (34) of Front Row Motorsports was fifth.
Ty Gibbs of Joe Gibbs Racing (54) was the highest-finishing Toyota in sixth. He was followed by Jimmie Johnson (84), who returned to Daytona as a driver/owner of Legacy Motorsports Club as the top-finishing Chevrolet, SHR’s Almirola (No. 10 Ford), Truex and FRM’s Todd Gilliland (No. 38 Ford).
Ty Dillon, in the Spire Motorsports No. 77 Chevrolet, was the first team to encounter an issue. On lap 27 Dillon was forced to drive his car to pit road and then to the garage as smoke billowed from his engine.
Most races have one Grand Marshal. The Daytona 500 isn’t most races.
That starts with the King, Richard Petty, who won seven of each, and Jimmie Johnson, who tied Petty with seven championships, while winning the Daytona 500 twice. Jeff Gordon, now a co-team owner at Hendrick Motorsports, has four championships and three 500 wins. Bobby Allison and Dale Jarrett won the Daytona 500 three times apiece and each one a Cup championship, while Bill Elliott celebrated a Daytona 500 win twice along with the 1988 Cup title. The just-retired Kurt Busch finally earned a 500 victory in 2017 to go along with his 2004 Cup championship, while Kevin Harvick, who announced this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver, paired a 2007 Daytona win with his 2014 championship. Last but not least is two-time Cup champion Joey Logano, who took the Daytona checkered flag in 2015.
Contributing: Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins 2023 Daytona 500, edging Joey Logano in OT