Finally, after 16 tries, Kurt Bush and his crew chief Tony Gibson have won the prestigious Daytona 500. The race was first tactical, then hectic, then absolutely destructive, then nail-bitingly tense to the end. Here’s how the first race of the 2017 season, the 59th Daytona 500, played out:
Stage One: Wheel Issues and Toyota Strategy
Shortly after the field took the green flag, Joey Logano dove into the pits with a lose wheel. Soon afterwards all the Toyotas made a brave strategy maneuver, opting to pit early with the intentions of staying out during the stage break. Daniel Suarez had a bit of a moment in the pits, and Ryan Blaney made a stellar run from 36th to mix it up with the leaders. Read the stage report for more. The one wild moment of the stage came when Corey LaJoie seemed to be unable to break coming into the pits. he swerved aside, narrowly missing Clint Bowyer. However, the move sent him back up the track and into the wall. Kyle Busch took the first stage win.
Stage Two: Big Names go Down
In stage two, things started to get crazy. On lap 104, Kyle Busch’s right rear tire gave out, spinning him around. Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, and Ty Dillon all stacked up into the No. 18 car, scraping up against the wall. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. couldn’t avoid the wreckage, and he clipped the front of Kyle Busch. All those drivers were taken out of the race. That crash brought out the Red Flag, and on the restart it was the Fords who came up strong. Harvick won the second stage, with Logano second and Danica Patrick third.
Stage Three: Wreckfest
Barely eight laps into Stage Three, the first big one of the night went down. Running three wide, No. 6 Trevor Bayne got into the quarter panel of Jimmie Johnson, sending the cars spinning in the middle of the track. The resulting mess collected a fair portion of the field, putting many cars that performed well in Stage Two out of the race and who could’ve been top contenders. Among those taken out were Harvick, Patrick, and Bowyer, leaving Kurt Busch as the only remaining Stewart-Haas car.
Shortly afterwards, miscommunication as cars tried to pit caused a smaller four-car crash, involving Ryan Stenhouse Jr, Jeffery Earnhardt, and Ryan Blaney.
Another massive wreck took McMurray and Keselowski, more top runners, out of the race, brought out another caution, and caused substantial damage to another huge chunk of the pack. The crash was a chain reaction, started by McMurray tapping Chase Elliott. Amazingly, Chase Elliott kept running and led many laps later in the race.
Finally, lap 151 claimed three more victims, as Joey Gase got tapped by Chase Elliott, sending him into Brendan Gaughan.
After all these crashes, only Michael Waltrip, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, and AJ Allmendinger were left without some damage on their cars.
After the caution period, the field stayed green until the end. Joey Logano came to the front, and the field strung out behind. Chase Elliott managed to come around the outside, snagging the lead with about 30 laps to go, and the field strung out in single file along the wall. With the bottom line quickly disappearing, Logano slipped back down to 14th. Elliott led the draft around and around in a strict high-line single-file procession, with no one daring to make a move. In fact, with no bottom lane at all, it was impossible for anyone to make a move from the back, although Logano tried multiple times.
With just two laps to go, Kyle Larson broke out, taking the lead from Chase Elliott. Sputtering, Elliott’s No. 24 car ran out of fuel, and he drifted helplessly back and away from the win. Larson looked confident for half a lap, but then Truex, Jr. and Kurt Busch stormed him. In a quick feint move, Busch overtook Larson. The move would prove to be all-important, as Kurt Busch came around to win the Daytona 500. He only led one lap, but it was the one that counted.
-Patrick Powers @pdpowers98