Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins longest Daytona 500 ever

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the longest Daytona 500 ever under caution after a wreck on the final lap.

Stenhouse was ahead of Joey Logano thanks to a push from Christopher Bell when Kyle Larson went head-on into the wall amid a big crash on the second green-white-checker restart attempt.

The race officially ended on the 212th lap. The previous longest Daytona 500 was 209 laps in 2020.

The wreck on the final lap came after a big crash on the first two-lap overtime restart necessitated another attempt to get to the finish. The final lap crash took out nearly every car still running outside of the top three. Logano finished second and Bell was third.

The win is Stenhouse’s third of his Cup Series career and his first since 2017. He won at Daytona and Talladega that season while racing for the team now known as Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.

Stenhouse did a great job staying ahead of everyone else over the final one-plus laps of the race and his winning move came before the wreck on the first overtime attempt. Stenhouse pushed Logano down the backstretch out of Turn 2 and then passed him before Austin Dillon got turned to trigger the big wreck and the caution.

The victory should qualify Stenhouse for the playoffs. A win automatically qualifies a driver for the 16-driver postseason unless more than 16 drivers win a race over the first 26 races of the season.

The postseason berth would be Stenhouse’s first since that 2017 season. He finished 13th in the points standings that season before he was 18th in 2018. After dropping back to 23rd in the standings in 2019, he parted ways with Roush and moved to his current JTG Daugherty Racing team.

A JTG Daugherty driver hadn’t been to victory lane since 2014 when AJ Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen. That was the team’s only win until Stenhouse won NASCAR’s biggest race.

Stenhouse’s first race back with crew chief Mike Kelley

Stenhouse won back-to-back Xfinity Series titles with Roush in 2011 and 2012. He won six races on the way to his second second-tier title and was promoted to the Cup Series a season later to replace Matt Kenseth after Kenseth left to go to Joe Gibbs Racing.

Cup success never happened for Stenhouse, however. He’s finished in the top 20 in the points standings just three times over his 10 full seasons at the top level of NASCAR.

Kelley was his crew chief for both of those Xfinity Series titles and was also his crew chief for the 2014 Cup Series season. Since then, Kelley has worked in various Cup and Xfinity Series crew chief capacities before he reunited with Stenhouse ahead of the 2023 season.

It’s unfair to assume that the Stenhouse-Kelley reunion will mean that Stenhouse is a title contender in 2023. His win on Sunday qualifies as an upset — he was +3000 to win the race before the green flag — and he will likely be out of the playoffs in the first round or two.

But it’s certainly a massive boost for the single-car JTG Daugherty team. A playoff berth comes with increased revenue from NASCAR’s points fund and that money can be used to (ideally) build faster cars.

Wrecks take out lots of contenders

Many of the favorites to win Sunday’s race were involved in crashes at various points in the race.

Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and others were involved in a crash on lap 117.

Truex was then involved in the next crash on lap 181 that included Kevin Harvick, Ryan Preece, Chase Briscoe and Jimmie Johnson.

And then the crash on lap 202 included Dillon, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Ross Chastain and defending Daytona 500 champion Austin Cindric among others.

The final lap crash then eliminated Larson, Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Keselowski from contention for the win. It was unlikely that anyone outside the top three was going to win the race on the final lap anyway, but the wreck solidified that.

Overall, there were four crashes that had at least seven cars involved and all four of them happened in the second half of the race. The only caution in the first half of the race was for the conclusion of the first stage.

Fox’s commercial-filled broadcast

Watching the Daytona 500 was not a pleasant experience. The Fox broadcast was filled with commercials. At one point during the first half of the race, Fox was averaging a commercial break every 10 laps.

The commercial frequency was annoying and apparent during the lap 117 wreck. Fox went to an ad break as it became clear to viewers that things were getting dicey on the track and the crash happened literally as commercials began on half the screen. As the wreck unfolded on a small box on the left side of the screen, Fox let the side-by-side ad break unfold as scheduled as wrecked cars were shown one-by-one and fans were left to figure out if their favorite driver got crashed as commercials played.

Fox let the commercial break play out as scheduled before coming back to the race broadcast in full.

The Fox booth and its cameras missed numerous moments throughout the race as viewers were left to piece together what happened at multiple points in the race. It was a rough watch for NASCAR fans and one that could become the norm in future years.

Fox ostensibly had so many ad breaks on Sunday because the Daytona 500 is its most-watched NASCAR race of the year. Ad space is much more valuable during the Daytona 500 and ad revenue helps Fox recoup what it paid for NASCAR TV rights. NASCAR’s current television deal is up after the 2024 season and there’s no sign that television ratings are going to significantly increase anytime soon. As TV rights fees get more expensive and NASCAR’s TV audience isn’t growing, more frequent commercials could be a way for broadcast partners to pay for the rights.

Unofficial Daytona 500 results

1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2. Joey Logano

3. Christopher Bell

4. Chris Buescher

5. Alex Bowman

6. AJ Allmendinger

7. Daniel Suarez

8. Ryan Blaney

9. Ross Chastain

10. Riley Herbst

11. Travis Pastrana

12. Kevin Harvick

13. Zane Smith

14. Cody Ware

15. Corey LaJoie

16. Martin Truex Jr.

17. Denny Hamlin

18. Kyle Larson

19. Kyle Busch

20. Bubba Wallace

21. Aric Almirola

22. Brad Keselowski

23. Austin Cindric

24. Noah Gragson

25. Ty Gibbs

26. Harrison Burton

27. Todd Gilliland

28. Michael McDowell

29. Conor Daly

30. BJ McLeod

31. Jimmie Johnson

32. Justin Haley

33. Austin Dillon

34. William Byron

35. Chase Briscoe

36. Ryan Preece

37. Erik Jones

38. Chase Elliott

39. Tyler Reddick

40. Ty Dillon