The 2023 Daytona 500 Ends With an Upset Winner

The biggest stories from the 65th annual Daytona 500

The frontstretch of the Daytona Superspeedway, where near 200 mph speeds can be reached.

Wikipedia Commons

The frontstretch of the Daytona Superspeedway, where near 200 mph speeds can be reached.

Joey Brooks, Reporter

From a upset winner from a small team, to big crashes, to a “photo finish,” there is a lot to unpack about the 2023 Daytona 500.

Let’s start with the man of the hour; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He beat former Daytona 500 and 2-time champion Joey Logano by a bumper. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. races for JTG Daugherty Racing, a one car team that usually finishes in the top 20 on a good day. Brad Daugherty (one of the majority owners of the team) played in the NBA for several seasons. His love of stock car racing drew him into creating a team. Due to the lack of funds within the company, the one and only car that JTG Daugherty fields (the No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro driven by Stenhouse Jr.) is usually a non-contender.

This all changed thanks to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse being a super-speedway specialist, he has mastered the draft and skills needed to be competitive on the big tracks. Since any team would only need to win once to advance into the playoffs, Ricky Stenhouse can compete at the super-speedways, (Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta) and have a good shot at getting a smaller team (in this case JTG Daugherty Racing) into the playoffs.

Now to the finish of the Daytona 500. As stated in the NASCAR rulebook, if the leader takes the white flag on the last lap and the caution (usually meaning a crash has has just occurred or there is debris on the track) comes out, the race will be called official. The car in the lead at the time of the caution (when the yellow caution lights around the track turn on) will be declared the winner.

As Joey Logano led the pack down the front-stretch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made a banzai pass on the inside. Going into turn 1, the field of dozens of cars behind them erupted into chaos. At the time the caution came out, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was a bumper in front of Joey Logano, therefore making him the winner of the 65th annual running of Daytona 500.

Another driver to note was Travis Pastrana. Pastrana (an 11x X-Games champion and 6x World Rally Champion) finished 11th, after unfortunately being involved in the last-lap accident in turn 1. Hopefully this finish by Pastrana will help lure other non-NASCAR regulars to race in the series. A surprisingly good finish to his first race in NASCAR’s most competitive series.

Surprisingly, Jimmie Johnson decided to be a part-time driver, meaning he would only race in bigger events, in addition to being a part-owner of the Legacy Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson dominated the sport of NASCAR for a 15-year stretch from 2002 to 2017; winning 7 Championships (in a 3-way tie for the most, and 5 of them in a row), winning 83 races, and two Daytona 500s to name a few.

Unfortunately, Jimmie Johnson fell of a cliff and his performance took a nosedive. His most recent win (and probably his last) came in the 2017 Martinsville race. I remember watching that race with my father; having no clue it might be his last win. The thought of THE Jimmie Johnson not winning another race after coming off his 7th championship just a year prior in 2016 was unbelievable.

The saying of “celebrate every win like its your last” became evermore ominous after I watched that Martinsville race years in the future. Many fans left Jimmie’s career for dead, but Jimmie Johnson proved he still had a bit of gas left in his tank in the 2023 Daytona 500. After a 2-year hiatus from the sport, Jimmie Johnson managed to stay in the lead pack for a majority of the race and be competitive; like the good ol’ days. Although he finished 31st after being caught up in the last-lap crash, this final finishing spot doesn’t reflect the show that Johnson put on during the race.

Overall, the 2023 Daytona 500 was a great race to say the least; a surprise winner, a legend returning to form, and a crazy finish to boot.