'The Big One' Shakes Up Daytona 500 Finish, William Byron Wins

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'The Big One' Shakes Up Daytona 500 finishSean Gardner - Getty Images

As the laps clicked off in the Daytona 500, fans waited with bated breath knowing that the “Big One” had yet to happen. Since the crash on lap five, there were few on-track incidents, giving the racers in the 66th running of the 500 the chance to actually race each other.

With eight laps remaining after 187 laps of clean racing, the crash came for the field.

While Ross Chastain led, William Byron got loose while being pushed by Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman. Byron’s bobble caused the No. 24 driver to spin Brad Keselowski, turning the No. 6 RFK Ford in front of the field. With a Daytona 500 victory on the line, you can practically set your watch to a late accordion crash. When Keselowski spun he collected 21 cars and brought out the first and only red flag of the race.

Some of the collected cars included Joey Logano who led the most laps of the race up until the crash, defending champion Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, and Martin Truex Jr.

“It’s speedway racing, it’s a lot of fun until it sucks,” Logano said after he cleared the care center.

Logano has been on both sides of the speedway racing, this time being taken out by the duo that would go on to finish 1-2.

While track crews cleaned up the track and the surviving cars stood frozen where they spun, NASCAR on Fox utilized their fleet of in-car cameras to show the impact that the drivers experienced. While showing Blaney’s in-car shot you could see the defending champion get his wrist whipped because he kept his hands on the wheel.

“The wheel got ripped.” Blaney explained outside the care center, “I usually get my hands off the wheel, but I didn’t think I needed to and then it caught something and spun it weird, but it just tweaked it a little bit. It’s all good.”

Blaney, who won the second stage, would finish 30th due to being swept up in his fourth consecutive crash at Daytona. He was in higher spirits than after his crash in the first BlueGreen Vacations Duel on Thursday.

Racing resumed with eight laps remaining and Chastain and Byron challenged for the lead. Chevrolet had the field stacked in their favor as eight of the top ten spots were filled by Camaros.

Final Restart

With fewer than three laps remaining Byron’s teammate Alex Bowman went up to block the third line and lost a lap and a half of challenge time. When he recharged to the front he was met with the premature final flag of the race.

Coming to the white flag Byron went high to block Chastain and Chastain zigged low to attempt to sneak by and met the front right of Austin Cindric. The two spun down into the infield and NASCAR attempted to not throw the yellow flag and let the race leaders decide the outcome out front.

Right after Byron captured the white flag, Chastain and Cindric's spinning cars returned to the racing surface, and the yellow was waived. Mike Forde of NASCAR Racing Communications explained via tweet that they hoped to let the race finish under green if the spinning cars could stay off the racetrack. If the caution had been called a few seconds earlier the race would’ve gone into a two-lap overtime to decide the winner, if it had been called a few seconds later Bowman would be the winner.

Per the NASCAR rule book the race is over when a caution flag is waived on the final lap. Depending on the angle, it appeared to some that Bowman made the pass on Byron but after obtaining aerial footage NASCAR felt secure in their call.

This would be the second premier race at Daytona International Speedway in 2024 to end prematurely as fans were quick to point out that the 24 Hours of Daytona ended two minutes early.

Byron's win gets etched into the history books as Hendrick's captured their record-tying ninth Daytona 500 victory on the team's 40th anniversary. Byron joined Jeff Gordon (3), Jimmie Johnson (2), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1), Geoff Bodine (1), and Darrell Waltrip (1) as Hendrick Motorsports Daytona 500 winners. Hendrick shares this record with Richard Petty Motorsports.

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