The 2018 Daytona 500 as it happened

DAYTONA BEACH FLA- Austin Dillon won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season opening Daytona 500 Sunday. He didn’t lead until the last lap, but that’s all it took. Here’s how it all went down Sunday.

From his second career pole, Alex Bowman led the field to the green on the outside. Deny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Joy Logano followed.

Hamlin had a clear lead by the end of the first lap; it was two by two behind him.  Blaney had second, Logano third by the second lap; the top three were single file.

Bubba Wallace shot up the outside and took second at the end of the lap.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Blaney were side by side behind.  Stenhouse had third by lap 4.

After starting in the back of the field with a backup car, Brad Keselowski was 20th by lap 5.  Deeper in the pack it was three and four wide at times.

By lap 6 it was a four car breakaway: Hamlin, Wallace, Stenhouse and Kurt Busch. It was a seven car single file by lap 7.

Corey Lajoie lost an engine on lap 8 and the first caution of the day flew.

The leaders pitted.  Kyle Larson and a few others deeper in the field stayed out.  All too fuel only. Kurt Busch was out first, followed by Stenhouse, Wallace, Ryan Newman, and Bowmen.

Hamlin slid through his box, and came out late; he was penalized for pitting outside his box and was brought back in and held for a lap.

Green came out to start lap 12.  Kurt Busch too a clear lead; it was two by two behind.  Bowman was able to work his way underneath and took the lead to start lap 15.  Erik Jones took third behind Kurt Busch.

On lap 17 the field bunched up at the front; Kasey Kahne nearly spun exiting turn 4 and shot through the pits; up front it was Bowman, Kurt Busch, Wallace, Jones and Newman.

Soon it was two by two; on lap 219, Bowman and Jones had broken away; Kyle Busch had moved to third and was soon looking for second.  He and Jones were fighting for the spot and soon Jones was on the outside looking for the lead.

Jones had a slight lead by lap 22 on the outside.  Wallace had gotten shuffled back and was 17th.

The lead group was single file by lap 26.  Kyle Busch dropped it the inside on lap 27, but fell back.

Kyle Busch dropped to the apron and pitted with a left rear tire failure on lap 29.  He rejoined the field 31st, a lap down.

The inside lane made a charge to the front led by Stenhouse who took the lead on lap 33.  Logano was second, Jones third, Kevin Harvick fourth, Daniel Suarez fifth.

Jimmie Johnson moved to fourth on lap 35.  He had started from the rear of the field in a backup car.  Keselowski was just behind in fifth.

The top five were single file by lap 37: Stenhouse, Logano, Harvick, Johnson and Keselowski.  The rest of the field was two by two behind.

Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch were fighting for fourth by lap 41.

Elliott fought his way forward and took the lead on lap 45.  The field was stacked up behind him and blocked both lanes.

Logano was looking for the lead by lap 46. He took the lead on lap 47.  Elliott fought back on the inside and retook the lead prior to the end of the lap. They were side by side and Logano was credited with leading lap 48.

Kyle Busch spun in turn 3 on lap 50 and the second caution came out.  Jamie McMurray suffered damaged as well.  Busch limped to the pits with his rear bumper dragging.  DJ Kennington also suffered some damage as he crossed the rear of the Busch car.

Several among the leaders pitted.  Logano was out first, followed by Harvick, Larson and Blaney.  The top five who had stayed out; Kurt Busch, Elliott, Jones, Stenhouse and Suarez. Those who pitted restarted 12th.

Keselowski, who had suffered slight damage earlier pitted twice to repair damage.

The green came out to start lap 55; 5 to go in Stage 1. Kurt Busch took the lead on the bottom; Logano and Elliott were side by side behind.  Jones had second by lap 56.

It was three wide behind Busch the lap later.

Elliott was looking for the lead on the outside on lap 57.  Logano pitted but the question was did he make it before it was closed.

Up front, it was Kurt Busch, holding off Stenhouse. On the final lap of the stage entering turn 3;  Stenhouse blocked Blaney; they made contact and a chain reaction crash erupted. Involved; Jones, Suarez, Johnson, William Byron, Larson, Ty Dillon and Martin Truex Jr. Suarez, Johnson, Dillon, and Jones were done.

There were a mix of pit stops. Kurt Busch missed his pit and was forced to go out and come back in.

The top 10 Stage 1: Kurt Busch, Bowman, Blaney, Stenhouse, Truex, Michael McDowell, Harvick, Elliott, Paul Menard and Trevor Bayne.

After stops the top 10: Bowman, Blaney, Harvick, Menard, Aric Almirola, Keselowski, Brendan Gaughan, Stenhouse and Clint Bowyer.

Green came out to start lap 66.  Blaney was side by side with Bowman for the leadwith Bowman credited with leading a lap.

Blaney had a clear led by the end of lap 67.  Menard was just behind in second.  Keselowski was third. Bowman was third by lap 70.

By lap 76, Blaney was out front dancing up and down blocking the two lines behind him.

It had settled into a top lane breakaway y lap 88.  By lap 90, the lead group was mainly single file; Byron slid into the wall while running 12th on lap 91. The field continued for another lap before the third caution of the day came out for debris on lap 93.

The leaders pitted.  Blaney was out first followed by Keselowski, Harvick and Elliott.  Truex stayed out and took the lead. Green came out to start lap 97. Truex, despite older tires held the lead and was soon blocking Blaney; Blaney would have none of it and retook the lead to start lap 98. Keselowski followed for second, Harvick no the lost side was third.  Elliott and Truex were in the mix.

On lap 101 while racing for the lead, Elliott was hit from behind by Keselowski in third.  Elliott was shot up into the turn 3 wall; Harvick, Danica Patrick were among those involved. Elliott, Patrick and Keselowski were done. Others with damage included Bowyer, Kahne, Kurt Busch, and David Ragan.  Caution five came out.

Green came out to start lap 108. Blaney had the lead by turn 1.  Truex tucked in behind.   Harvick wasn’t able to make repairs within the 6 minute crash clock and sent to the garage.

Stenhouse dropped off the pace on lap 112; he pitted with an overheating issue.

Blaney held the lead as the diminished field fell into single file.  The top five at lap 117: Blaney, Menard, Almirola, Wallace and Austin Dillon.

Top 10 Stage 2: Blaney, Menard, Logano, Almirola, McDowell, Truex, Wallace, Bayne, Dillon, and Hamlin. Caution six came out.

The leaders pitted; Blaney was out first followed by Logano, Menard, Hamlin and Gaughan. Truex was penalized for a loose tire, Larson for a crewman over the wall too soon.

Green came out to start lap 126.  Blaney took the lead, Logano felling to second, Hamlin was third followed by Bayne and Menard.  The upper lane was single file with the top 10.  A few laps later the single line was up to the top 20.

Bayne pitted on lap 132.

Several drivers deeper in the field tried to form a line on the lower line, but got nowhere.

Green flag stops started in the back of the pack on lap 156. Hamlin was among those who pitted.

There were 17 cars on the lead lap by lap 163. The top 13 were single file.

There were 14 cars on the lead lap on lap 169.

The leaders pitted on lap 171.  Blaney was out first followed by Truex, Bowman and Kurt Busch. Logano, who had a long stop, was also penalized for speeding.  McDowell slid through his box and had to go back around. Hamlin who did not pit with the lead group, and had the lead on the track.  Logano came out in 15th.

After the stops Blaney led, Truex was second followed by Kurt Busch, Bowman, and Newman after Blaney blew by him.  The top 8 were single file in a group with Hamlin at the end.

Logano was lapped on lap 184.

Byron lost a tire and went for a solo spin in turn 4 on lap 189 and caution six came out.

The top 7 stayed out; those inside the top 10 including Wallace and Newman pitted.  Logano got the free pass putting 15 cars on the lead lap.

The top 10: Blaney, Truex, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Bowman, Dibenedetto, Almirola, Newman, AJ Allmendinger and Dillon.

The restart came on lap 193, 6 laps to go.

Blaney shot to the lead, but it was three wide for the lead in turn 4; Kurt Busch, Hamlin and Blaney. Busch emerged with the lead.  Almirola was soon in the mix in second.  He was looking for the lead side y side on lap 195. Busch again came out with the lead. With 4 to go, Busch had a clear lead; but Blaney shot by and took the lead.

Blaney had a clear lead up top with three to go; Hamlin was looking for the lead.  They were side by side in turn 4 and Hamlin took the lead on the low side.  Entering turn 1 on lap 198, Blaney got into Busch and a multicar crash was set off.  Busch was out, Stenhouse was out, as was Bowman , Dibenedetto. Truex also got damage as did Blaney, Allmendinger, and Newman.  They however were able to continue, but pitted for repairs.  In all 12 cars were involved.  Truex had to spend extended time in the pits getting repaired.

The eighth caution set up an overtime finish.

The top 10 on the restart: Hamlin, Almirola, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Menard, Wallace, Logano, Allmendinger and Blaney.

On the restart, Hamlin took the lead with Almirola fighting on the outside. On the white flag lap, Hamlin was still leading but entering turn 3, Almirola took a slight lead, with Austin Dillon following.  Almirola tried to block, Dillon got into him and Almirola was turned into the wall.  Dillon took the lead, there was no caution, and he took the 3 Chevrolet to the win.

Wallace and Hamlin were side by side coming to the line; they touched and were locked together with Wallace taking second, Hamlin third. Logano was fourth, Buescher fifth.

Menard was sixth, Blaney seventh, Newman eighth, McDowell  ninth and Allmendinger tenth. Almirola was scored 11th.

The second race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to Atlanta for the Quik Trip Folds of Honor 500 next Sunday.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.