Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – With 10 laps left in his final Daytona 500, Brendan Gaughan was two laps down.
Two quick cautions, however—the last one coming on Lap 199 of a scheduled 200—got Gaughan back on the lead lap as the highest-scored lapped car just in time for the first of two overtimes.
Gaughan made the most of the opportunity, driving up to seventh place by the time the race reached its chaotic conclusion, with Denny Hamlin winning by inches over Ryan Blaney.
“My last Daytona 500, my career-best finish, what an amazing finish,” Gaughan said afterward. “The Beard Oil Team, what a great job. I’m so proud of all the guys; we don’t quit. Right now, my thoughts are with Newman.”
“Twenty-three or 24 years of this and finally a top-10 in the Daytona 500 and a chance to win. The guys didn’t quit, the pit crew didn’t quit. I love the Beard family and thank you for the opportunity. For us, this is a big deal. We’re a small team with one employee, a car chief that’s a plumber, and we come home with a top-ten in the Daytona 500. I had a shot there at the end to win. That’s Daytona, man! This stuff is wild. I do love this racing. We take this risk, love this risk and we do what we love. I still love what I do.”
MASSIVE WRECK DENIES BRAD KESELOWSKI CHANCE AT 500 VICTORY—AGAIN
With 17 laps left in Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski was running at the front of the field, a contender to win the Great American Race for the first time.
Barely more than half a lap later, Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford was wrecked beyond repair, the victim of a 19-car accident. The chain-reaction incident started when Joey Logano bump-drafted Aric Almirola’s Ford into Keselowski’s car, knocking it sideways near the front of the field.
Keselowski was eliminated from the race in 36th place.
“It was just one of those racing deals,” Keselowski said after leaving the infield care center. “We had a really good Discount Tire Ford. My team did an incredible job today to put ourselves in position to lead a lot of laps and run up front. I am proud of the way we started with some fast race cars. Unfortunately, it didn’t come together there at the end.
I probably made a little bit of a bad move not blocking the 6 (Ryan Newman) and 95 (Christopher Bell). I didn’t know the 95 was that darn fast. He pushed the 6 like a rocket and I didn’t think they would come with that big of a run and when they did, I didn’t cover it. I put myself into a position where when they did wreck, I couldn’t make it through.”
CRASH BRINGS EARLY END TO DAYTONA 500 FOR DUEL WINNER WILLIAM BYRON
William Byron tasted victory for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night.
In Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, Byron experienced the sting of an early exit from NASCAR’s most prestigious race.
On Lap 45, the Hendrick Motorsports cars driven by Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman and Byron charged into the top four positions in the running order. But on Lap 59, as he was trying to block a run by the Ford of Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slid the front bumper of his car across the rear bumper of Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet.
A final tap from Stenhouse to the left rear of Byron’s car sent the No. 24 sliding through the infield grass into the inside wall on the backstretch. The hard crash eliminated Byron in last (40th) place.
“Obviously, I got hit in the back bumper,” Byron said after exiting the infield care center. “I saw a brief replay of it. He (Stenhouse) was kind of moving when he hit me first and so he pushed me left with him. And then he hit me in the center of the left rear and just turned me around.
“I think it was just enough. The first hit, when he was sliding left on my bumper, is what really moved my car left with him. So I don’t know. It’s unfortunate. I feel like there’s really no reason to be that aggressive moving across my bumper, but it is what it is. We’ll go on to Vegas (next Sunday) and go try to win that one.”