The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s most prestigious event, and for good reason.
Each February, countless racing fans pack into the grandstands at Daytona International Speedway in Florida for a spectacle known as “the Great American Race”.
On Thursday night, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin were victorious in the Can-Am Duel 150s, which set the majority of the field for Sunday.
On Saturday, in the PowerShares QQQ 300, the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers were fast and furious, triggering multi-car pileups which collected a majority of the field and halted the race on two separate occasions.
Although he won the first two “stages” of the race, per NASCAR’s new policy awarding points to the top drivers at set intervals during each event, veteran driver Elliott Sadler saw his day come to a close when he was caught in a wreck on Lap 105.
In spite of the carnage, Ryan Reed was able to hold off NASCAR Cup Series regulars Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillon for his second Daytona Xfinity Series win, his first coming in 2015.
However, the highlight of Speedweeks 2017 was definitely Sunday afternoon’s 59th running of the Daytona 500. The first caution flag flew at Lap 30, when Corey LaJoie lost control of his #83 Toyota on pit road and plowed into the wall.
This was only a minor setback, though, as Kyle Busch stormed into the lead and was in command at the end of the first 60-lap stage, receiving bonus points under NASCAR’s new points model, in which the leader at the end of the first and second stages of the race receives bonus points toward the championship playoffs.
Although he had drifted back after the start of the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., returning to Cup Series competition after being sidelined for half of last season, stormed into first place just before the halfway point.
That advantage, however, was short-lived. On Lap 105, caution was out for a crash that involved not only Earnhardt Jr., but also Segment 1 winner Busch and the #20 driven by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. Xfinity Series regular Elliott Sadler, pinch-hitting for Tommy Baldwin Racing in the #7 Chevrolet, received only slight cosmetic damage in the accident and was able to secure the first position.
With little more than 70 laps remaining, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and 2013 Daytona 500 pole sitter Danica Patrick, among others, found themselves taken from contention in another massive pileup.
With much of the field eliminated in crashes, Chase Elliott was once again cruising toward his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott maintained a steady yet slim lead as the race wound down. Kyle Larson, however, had other plans. He passed Elliott to secure the lead, only to lose it once again to the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Kurt Busch, who had not a single lap all afternoon.
The veteran driver from Las Vegas stormed under the checkered flag to capture his first victory in his seventeenth Daytona 500. Busch’s win was not only his first as a driver, but also the first Daytona 500 win for team owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.