Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was able to hold off a late charge by Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Michael McDowell to secure his second career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and his second victory of the season.
Stenhouse led just 17 laps en route to the victory at Daytona where he had to survive a record amount of cautions. 14 yellow flags later, Stenhouse found himself in the lead as the field crossed the finish line with the checkered flag displayed during NASCAR Overtime.
“Well, I feel like for me, we’ve had good finishes at speedways. I feel like we lucked into a few of them, but now that we’re paying a lot of attention to every single part of our company, making sure that the speedway cars are good, the short tracks, the mile-and-a-halves, we’re really focused in on every aspect of the sport and trying to make sure that we’re not leaving any stone unturned,” Stenhouse said. “So we’re working hard, and this race, the way we drove up the bottom, that wasn’t — I didn’t feel like it was anything to do with me, that was just a fast race car.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. would lead the field to green alongside teammate Chase Elliott. Earnhardt would take the lead on the backstretch but wouldn’t keep it as he got to far out and Kasey Kahne pushed Elliott passed the No. 88 as the field crossed the finish line marking Elliott the leader of the first lap one. It wouldn’t last long, however, as just four laps later defending race winner Brad Keselowski would take the lead.
A series of engine failures would plague the next stint of the race as Ryan Sieg, Cole Whitt and D.J. Kennington would fall out of the race early.
Following all of the cautions, Keselowski would lead the field back to green and would exchange the lead with Harvick and Earnhardt. The field wouldn’t have enough to charge on the No. 2, and Keselowski would hold off a run by Ryan Blaney and Earnhardt Jr. to win Stage 1.
Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones gained the lead after pitting with three laps to go in Stage 1, allowing for both drivers to battle for the lead over a period of laps before the caution was displayed for a key contender making contact with the wall. In what may be his final points paying race at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made contact with the outside wall after he thought he had a tire go down. Earnhardt would ultimately continue in the race, but his troubles didn’t stop there.
The first big accident of the evening would come at Lap 72 when Kyle Busch had a tire go down, causing him to spin and collect seven cars including Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Joey Logano. Logano’s night would be over with and the team would lose important points, falling below the playoff cut line.
Matt Kenseth would lead the field to green, showing his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had speed. He’d hold off a late charge from seven-time cup champion Jimmie Johnson to win Stage 2, earning his second playoff point of the season.
As the final stage of the race began, Harvick and Stenhouse Jr. would lead the field to green. Stenhouse would take the lead for the first time of the night leading six laps before the caution would be displayed for Brendan Gaughan, who made contact with the outside wall while running up front. Daniel Suarez would lead the field to green following around of pit stops, but it wouldn’t stay green for long as McDowell was forced down by Kahne into Elliott who would go spinning into the grass collecting Trevor Bayne as he came down the track.
The second big accident of the race would occur at Lap 107 when Harvick lost a tire and went spinning causing chaos around him. Harvick went up the track pinning Earnhardt Jr. against the outside wall ending his shot at winning the Coke Zero 400. More key race contenders such as Keselowski, Kahne and Suarez would be involved in this crash.
The field would go back green at Lap 110, but just eight laps later, Keselowski lost a right rear tire, adding to the damage he already received. Keselowski took the hard left turn behind the wheel, ending the former Coke Zero 400 winner’s day.
As the laps wound down, more drivers including Kahne, who was looking to end a long victory lane dryspell, began to take more risks. For Kahne, the risk wasn’t worth the reward as he spun while running in the lead pack. Five laps after the field went back green, Matt DiBenedetto lost a tire putting what was left of his left front fender on the track forcing NASCAR to throw a debris caution.
At Lap 154, points leader Kyle Larson, who had a quietly good run going, was clipped by his friend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and was sent hard into the outside wall. His car briefly left went in the air before being brought back to earth. He was then pummeled by the No. 21 of Blaney who had nowhere to go. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch also made hard contact with the outside wall, putting an end to a chance at sweeping the Daytona race. All drivers involved in the crash would walk away unscathed. The red flag would be displayed for nearly 10 minutes to clean up all the debris and damage left from the huge crash.
With three laps to go in the race Ty Dillon and David Ragan would lead the field to green but the field wouldn’t make it back before the caution would be displayed after Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin spun on the backstretch setting up for NASCAR Overtime.
Coming to the start of NASCAR Overtime, Ragan would be the leader with Ty Dillon in second. Ragan would enter turns one and two side-by-side, but a push from McDowell would prevail Stenhouse passed the No. 38 to take the lead with McDowell following into second. The No. 24 would spin coming into turn one but caution wouldn’t be thrown. Menard and Bowyer passed McDowell for second and third but it wouldn’t be enough as Stenhouse would cross the finish line for his second win of the season.