Photo from NIGEL COOK/NEWS-JOURNAL
Next-Gen Car Puts On A Great Show
It's safe to say that most people did not expect a great race given how bad the super speedway package was in the 2022 NASCAR season, however this Daytona 500 was pretty enjoyable to watch. There wasn't too much single file racing, and when there was it during pit stops or closer to the end when the intensity was still pretty high. There were a staggering amount of lead changes - only two more Daytona 500s in NASCAR's history had more than the 2023 edition of the race. It wasn't just lead changes - the runs throughout the pack were exciting to watch all night, and it was much easier for drivers to make up track position than last year's race.
Another Surprise Winner
For the third straight year, a wildly unlikely winner emerged: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. snapped a 199 race winless streak to win his first Daytona 500. Ricky Stenhouse Jr was able to capture the lead at the time of the caution that set up the GWC finish. He somehow managed to hang on for the next lap and a half before rest of the field wrecked behind him. It was Stenhouse's 3rd career win - all of which have come at super speedways. Ricky hasn't been to victory lane in almost 6 full years, one of the longest active winning droughts in the entire sport. It must've been worth it, as he joined elite company in becoming one of the less than 50 drivers who have ever won the 500. After a long stretch of mostly HOF drivers like Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, etc. winning the Daytona 500, it's wild that for the third straight season such a long shot winner has emerged. The last three winners (McDowell, Cindric, Stenhouse) have 5 wins combined in their career - 3 of those of course being their Daytona 500 wins.
Ford Somehow Doesn't Win
If I was a betting man, I would've put half of my life savings on each RFK racing car with 50 laps to go. Brad Keselowski had clearly the fastest car in Sunday's race and it wasn't even close. When Chris Buescher and Keseloski were out front, it was like tandem drafting was back - no one could catch those two. Outside of the RFK cars, Ford had speed across the board. Joey Logano finished second and Buescher ultimately finished fourth, but it was deeper than that. All the SHR cars had speed, with Ryan Preece and Aric Almirola both putting on great runs. Earlier in the week, I predicted that Ford would dominate and lose. Admittedly, I didn't feel so strong about that until the final restart.
Another "Just Survive" Daytona 500
The greatest race in America has a bit of black eye on its reputation. It's all about surviving the race, which seems to tarnish the reputation of the race. Although many argue that the race is more exciting this way, I think we can all agree that it is a little anticlimactic to have 17 running cars on the final restart and only have 3 cars that aren't completely scrapped after the race. Wrecks are of course inevitable and drivers will always continue to do whatever it takes to win NASCAR's biggest race, but this trend has continued to become more apparent in the last few years.
Overall, it was a great race. Entertaining throughout, no embarrassing moments, exciting storylines, and a great winner.