Stenhouse’s Daytona win reveals the five hundred is ‘crazier’ than ever

Stenhouse's Daytona win reveals the five hundred is 'crazier' than ever
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Fifty-two lead adjustments amongst 21 drivers. Solely three in-race cautions over the race’s first 198 laps after which three extra over the ultimate 13 laps, 10 run in time beyond regulation. A Daytona 500 winner who did not take the lead till that OT after which pulled into Victory Lane for the primary time in additional than 5 and a half years.

All of it reads like an unlikely confluence of racing occasions. A once-in-a-lifetime Halley’s Comet kind of sighting. A NASCAR unicorn. However it’s not one of the above. Not at Daytona. Not in inventory automotive racing’s largest race run on its largest roulette wheel.

No, that spaghetti pile of closing-laps statistics and sheet steel has turn into the Nice Modus Operandi of the Nice American Race. A couple of hours of calm adopted by a couple of laps of wacko adopted by a driver standing in Victory Lane who’s proud to be there however deep down, in the event that they’re being sincere, additionally kind of cannot consider it.

“It looks like a dream, it actually does,” winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. confessed as he acquired a conga line of hugs from a seemingly countless variety of revelers from one-car, poor-but-proud JTG Daugherty Racing. “However I do know it is actual as a result of I understand how onerous everybody proper right here has labored. How onerous I’ve labored. This racetrack tonight has lastly given us the breaks we have been so near getting for thus lengthy. Standing proper right here took so lengthy. However proper now, it was value all of it.”

Value a private anticipate Stenhouse of two,060 days. 5 years, seven months, 19 days. Almost 68 months. 100 ninety-nine races. That is how lengthy it had been since he’d gained a NASCAR Cup Sequence occasion, additionally at Daytona, {the summertime} 400-miler of July 1, 2017. That is solely his third win in a decade of making an attempt. For JTG Daughtery, the drought was even longer. The No. 47 automotive hadn’t been coated in confetti and champagne since August 10, 2014, a complete of three,116 days. That is solely their second trophy to take again to the race store. The largest single-race trophy that may be gained in NASCAR.

“We have all the time needed to take rather less into these weekly fights with these big-dollar groups and that is okay, that is who we’re, however there have been nights after we requested, ‘Can we hold these lights on?'” crew co-owner Tad Geschickter defined Sunday night time, standing alongside spouse Jodi. The couple moved their crew up from the Xfinity Sequence to Cup forward of the 2009 Daytona 500, becoming a member of forces with former NBA All-Star Brad Daugherty (he began the day at Daytona however missed the celebration after feeling underneath the climate and flying residence). “Covid was actually tough on us. We’re sponsored by retailers, grocers, suppliers. Once they obtained squeezed, so did we. We wanted breaks. We wanted the taking part in area to be leveled and we have now gotten that.”

They obtained it within the type of NASCAR’s Subsequent Gen automotive that debuted in 2022, just one a part of a slew of guidelines adjustments carried out by the sanctioning physique to assist groups reduce prices and maybe slender the hole between the far-flung monetary ends of the storage. That parity swept by means of the game one yr in the past with 19 totally different winners, probably the most seen in 21 seasons.

Added to the crapshoot of superspeedway racing, plus the fixed reset button that the Daytona 500 has turn into in current seasons, that degree taking part in area become a showcase stage for Stenhouse and the No. 47 Chevy.

“We have been thirty fifth in qualifying on Wednesday and we completed sixteenth (out of 21 automobiles) in our qualifying race on Thursday,” Stenhouse recalled. “We had a pit street dashing penalty early within the race as we speak and even once I was within the lead late, we have been operating low on gasoline, and I used to be continually afraid that I used to be going to expire of gasoline. However then, it labored out!”

For him, sure. For everybody else, not a lot. Once more, that has turn into the way in which of this place.

Prior to now dozen years, the Daytona 500 has averaged greater than 32 lead adjustments per race. Prior to now eight races, the race has seen 4 last-lap passes for the lead after there had been solely 9 within the first 57 editions of the occasion. Prior to now seven races, a mean of 31 automobiles have been concerned in crashes within the Daytona 500, greater than three quarters of the sector, together with 30 on Sunday. The Daytona 500 polesitter has not gained the race since Dale Jarrett in 2000. The final driver to guide the race on the midway level and go on to win it was Davey Allison in 1992.

It is whole chaos. An evil beachside pressure that appears decided to slam its doorways within the faces of NASCAR legends; former NASCAR champions Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski mixed to guide 61 laps on Sunday however finally reached a mixed 0-for-48 of their Daytona 500 careers. However then it additionally likes to open that very same door for these in want. Say, a Mississippi driver who was as soon as earmarked for greatness at then-superpower Roush Fenway Racing after which seemingly tossed into motorsport purgatory.

Simply check out the previous three winners of this race. Stenhouse’s third-ever win was his first in 199 races. Final yr it was Austin Cindrica rookie making his first-ever Cup Sequence begin. In 2021 it was Michael McDowellincomes his first-ever win in his 357th profession begin.

“You anticipate chaos at Daytona, and also you all the time have, however nowadays it does appear crazier than it is ever been. I do not suppose anybody can dispute that,” Stenhouse defined as his rest room paper sponsor threw rolls round Victory Lane behind him.

“More often than not, that chaos that this place has turn into, it bites you within the butt. You are within the wall. Within the grass. Wrecked and loading up and going residence. You begin pondering it is by no means going to go your approach, particularly at this place and on this race.”

Then the 35-year-old turned, pointed to the spot on the large Harley J. Earl Trophy the place his title will probably be engraved in sterling silver alongside the Corridor of Fame likes of Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon … in addition to the gotta-search-them winners reminiscent of Pete Hamilton, Derrike Cope and Trevor Bayne.

“However generally you make your breaks, you catch some breaks, you make the precise transfer on the proper time, and Daytona, it rewards you.”

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