William Byron wins Daytona 500 under caution

The perfect script played out for Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 66th Daytona 500 on Monday. Race leader William Byron finished a four-lap shootout under caution in a Presidents’ Day Daytona 500 delayed a day because of rain, making him the winner of the Great American Race in Daytona Beach, Fla.

As the late-afternoon start turned into night at the historic Daytona International Speedway and with the white flag approaching, Ross Chastain made a move into the middle lane and wrecked with second-place Austin Cindric. That gave Byron, in the No 24 Chevrolet, his first Daytona 500 win and 11th of his career in the series.

Byron’s teammate Alex Bowman finished second as Hendrick Motorsports emerged with its ninth 500 win, tying the organisation for first all-time with Petty Enterprises, and a 1-2 finish. Monday marked the 40th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports’ first Cup Series start, which came in the Daytona 500.

“I have so many emotions,” said Byron, who got loose and started an 18-car wreck with nine laps left. “Obviously, I hate what happened on the backstretch. I got pushed and got sideways. It’s the 40th anniversary (of Hendrick’s first race), so I’m just extremely blessed and thankful for the opportunities. … We have a lot to prove this year.

“I’m just a kid (who went from) racing on computers to winning the Daytona 500. I can’t believe it.”

Added Bowman of the caution’s timing just after the flag stand, “I was pretty sure William had us. But you’re going to let (NASCAR) debate it, right? I think in a couple hundred more feet we had the run.”

Christopher Bell, Corey LaJoie and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top five.

Pole winner Joey Logano led a race-high 45 laps but finished 32nd after being collected in the race’s biggest wreck.

In his 21st start in the season-opening points race, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was clipped by Carson Hocevar on Lap 5 and finished 28th in the 40-car field.

As Logano and Michael McDowell headed the field at full speed on Lap 5, Brad Keselowski’s No 6 Ford bumped John Hunter Nemechek’s No 42 Toyota at about 10th place, sparking a seven-car wreck that involved Johnson’s No 84 Toyota.

Chase Elliott led a five-car brigade past fellow Chevrolet driver Kyle Busch on Lap 65 to win Stage 1 as Chevy claimed the top six spots, with Busch in the final position.

However, Busch’s No 8 car had to restart in 29th, penalised after having an extra crew member come over the wall during the ensuing pit stop.

Running second to Team Penske teammate Cindric, 2023 Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney slipped under the No 2 Ford at the east end of the superspeedway and won Stage 2 at Lap 130. Busch had problems for a second time on pit road and lost positions, as the centre lug nut was not attached.

He limped his No 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet around the massive track, came back to pit road for service and restarted in 18th. Busch went on to finish the race 12th.

After the final pit green-flag pit stops with just over 20 laps left, the cars ran three wide over eight rows deep until Byron, running fourth, clipped second-place Keselowski and triggered the Big One – an 18-car melee in Turn 3 with nine laps left.

Source: Supersport

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