Joey Logano raced to his his first Daytona 500 win on Sunday in a caution-filled race that was a nail-biter to the very end. At age 24, Logano is the second youngest winner in Daytona history to take home the checkered flag.
The race was exceptionally close, with the leading cars three-wide with just 11 laps to go. The sprint to the finish line following cautions and delays -- including one for a crash with just four laps to go -- ended up deciding the race. The race was forced to conclude in green-white-checker fashion, meaning some overtime racing was run. Logano was the best when it mattered, winning a two-lap sprint at the end.
"I can't believe it," Logano said after the race. "This is absolutely amazing. Daytona 500, oh my God. Are you kidding me? I was so nervous the whole race."
With about 90 laps to go it looked like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Logano were the two racers to beat as they battled for position down the home stretch. Logano, who led for 31 laps, jumped in front with about 45 laps to go after Earnhardt Jr. took a pit stop to fuel. The 88 car then had a big deficit to make up. But a tight race meant a new leader seemingly around every corner and Earnhardt Jr. had enough fuel to finish the race which was a big advantage. But it wasn't to be for the 88 car. Earnhardt Jr., the 2014 Daytona 500 champion, couldn't pull off a back-to-back and finished third.
With 25 laps left the race was down to Jimmie Johnson at No. 1, Earnhardt Jr. at No.2 and Logano at No. 3. All three cars were incredibly tight. But a delay and caution once again shook everything up with 20 laps left, leaving the door wide open for anyone to win. With five laps to go Logano was in the lead but then a crash at the back of the pack caused yet another caution with four laps left. The 22 car was able to hold on despite even more cautions, taking home the win despite the delays.
Hendrick Motorsports had advantage at the start of the race featuring its drivers at the top three starting positions, but couldn't find a its way to victory lane. Jeff Gordon and Johnson started in row one, while Earnhardt Jr. was just behind in row two.
After all of the shakeups and delays, Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson were able to stick around the top. The top ten finishers were: No. 1. Logano, No. 2 Kevin Harvick, No.3 Earnhardt Jr., No. 4 Denny Hamlin, No. 5 Jimmie Johnson, No. 6 Casey Mears, No. 7 Clint Bowyer, No. 8 Martin Treux Jr., No. 9 Kasey Kahne and No. 10 Greg Biffle.
An early crash ended the day for notables Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth after Stewart ran into a wall and started a chain reaction crash.
Sunday’s field was without Kyle Busch, who suffered a broken right leg and a broken left foot after a head-on collision with a concrete wall in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. The Daytona International Speedway pledged that track will add steel-and-foam energy-reduction (SAFER) barriers in the future in response.
Kyle's older brother, Kurt, was not in the field of racers Sunday either, suspended indefinitely for his involvement in a domestic abuse case. A Delaware family court decided the elder Busch had committed an act of domestic violence and the driver lost his final appeal with NASCAR in the run up to the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt Jr. won 2014’s race in a day that was oft-delayed by weather. That was his second victory after first winning the race in 2004. Logano won the Daytona 500 for the first time, and was near the top of the pack all day in 2015.