DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Seven races after his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup win, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his second career win, this time at Daytona. Here’s how it all went down Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
For his final race at Daytona as a fulltime NASCAR Cup driver and his second career NASCAR pole, Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the field to the green; Chase Elliott started second followed by Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.
Earnhardt had the lead by the exit of turn 2. But it was Elliott who had the lead but the end of lap 1. Earnhardt fell into second. Keselowski and Kahne were fighting for third, with Keselowski getting the spot by lap 4; Harvick was soon looking for fourth from Kahne. Keselowski took the lead on lap 5, Harvick followed into second; behind it was Elliott, Kahne and Earnhardt.
On lap 6 Keselowski was blocking both lanes as Ryan Blaney had move into second. Elliott was looking for the lead side by side on lap 8. It was five rows of two by two. Clint Bowyer had moved into fifth, Earnhardt sixth,
Ryan Seig followed by Cole Whit both had engine issues and the first caution of the day came out on lap 9 for possible fluid on the track.
The leaders all stayed out. It was a quickie yellow the green came out to start lap 12.
Keselowski had the lead by the exit of turn 2 as Deny Hamlin pitted under green with a possible loose tire. It turned out that he only had one lugnut on.
On the track behind Keselowski the pack was two by two and at some places, three wide. Behind Keselowski it was Blaney, Harvick, Elliott and Bowyer.
DJ Kennington lost an engine exiting turn 4 on lap 15 and spun in his own oil and the second caution came out. The caution was fortuitous for Hamlin who was about to be caught by the field.
NASCAR ruled that the caution would replace the scheduled competition caution on lap 20.
The leaders however stayed out.
Green came out to start lap 19.
Keselowski had the lead by the exit of turn 2; Elliott fell in behind in second, Bowyer third. Blaney was in the mix by lap 21.
The pack was two by two behind.
By lap 24, Keselowski was defending his lead in front to the two rows lined up behind.
Jamie McMurray had third behind Harvick on lap 27. Elliott and Earnhardt.
It was two wide on lap 28 with Harvick and Keselowski side by side for the lead. Harvick was credited with leading lap 29.
It remained side by side up front.
On lap 30, Earnahrdt charged from the outside and it was three wide for the lead. Keselowski had a clear lead by lap 32 while it was three wide behind.
Earnhardt and Harvick broke away with Harvick diving into the inside of Keselowski and looking for the lead.
Keselowski took a sole lead on lap 34, as Earnhardt took second just behind, Harvick was third.
Earnhardt charged to the outside and took the lead with a push from Blaney on lap 36.
Soon they were side by side; Keselowski low, Earnhardt high.
Blaney made it three wide on lap 38 and tried to take the lead; soon he and Earnhardt were side by side behind Keselowski on the final lap of stage 1.
Top Stage 1: Keselowski, Earnhardt, Blaney, Bowyer, Joey Logano. Michael McDowell, McMurray, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Kurt Busch.
The leaders all pitted; Blaney was out first with no tires followed by Larson, Kahne, Suarez, Earnhardt and Paul Menard.
Erik Jones and Hamlin led a group of cars who stayed out when the green flew on lap 46. Earnhardt restarted sixth.
Jones had the lead by the end of the lap. Hamlin was second followed by Kyle Larson, Kahne and Daniel Suarez. Among those who had pitted it was a four-wide battle behind the top three.
Exiting turn 4 on lap 48, Suarez and McDowell nearly collided but charged down pit road trying to avoid a wreck.
Earnhardt cut down a tire on lap 52, hit the wall in turn 2 and slowly made his way to the pits. It was a result of contact with Menard. He pitted. Larson also pitted with damage from the contact.
On the track Hamlin led, followed by Kahne and Jones.
Earnhardt lost two laps getting repaired. And rejoined the field, 36th. The crew reported that the tire was up, Earnhardt said he felt it was going down and lifted; Menard got into the back of him
By lap 57 the top five were Hamlin, Kahne, Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne.
Jeffrey Earnhardt lost an engine and caution three came out for lap 58.
Jones, Keselowski, Murray, Harvick and several others pitted.
Hamlin. Kahne, Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Bayne stayed out. Larson and Earnhardt pitted for extended repairs.
Green came out on lap 63. Hamlin took the lead, Kenseth grabbed second. It was tow by two behind. Soon Kahne was outside of Kenseth and Hamlin was defending his lead. Deeper in the field Blaney was four wide.
Kenseth took the lead on lap 68, Hamlin fell to fourth behind Bayne, and Jimmie Johnson.
Bayne led lap 70. But on the lap exiting turn Kyle Busch was spun by his brother Kurt and collected several cars including Martin Truex Jr., Danica Patrick, McMurray, Logano, Austin Dillon, Darrell Wallace and Larson. All cars were able to make it to the pits. Logano climbed from his damaged car, his race over as was Dillon’s and Truex’s. Earnhardt got one of his two laps back under caution five
Kurt reported that he had smelled a tire rub, meaning Kyle Busch was possibly losing a tire just prior to slowing and being spun.
Green came out on lap 75. Kenseth led, Hamlin was on the outside.
It was two by two on the final laps of stage 2.
Kenseth took a slight lead as the final lap wore on; Johnson and Hamlin were side by side.
The top 10 Stage 2: Kenseth, Hamlin, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Ragan, Harvick, Kahne, Ty Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Blaney.
McMurray was out first with no tires followed by Keselowski, Blaney, Elliott and Hamlin all of whom took two tires.
The top 11 cars stayed out and the green came out for leader Kevin Harvick on lap 85. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second, Suarez third, followed by Bayne and Jones. Stenhouse had a clear lead by turn 3, Harvick was second just behind it was two by two beyond that. Suarez had third behind Harvick on lap 87. The top five were single file a lap later.
Brenden Gaughan was forced into the wall on lap 89 and caution seven came out. Earnhardt got the free pass and was back on the lead lap.
Several among the leaders pitted including Harvick and Stenhouse. Suarez stayed out and took the lead followed by McMurray, Kenseth, McDowell and Johnson. Green came out on lap 95. McMurray and Suarez were side by side but by the end of the lap Suarez had a clear lead, Kenseth was second. Johnson slid into third.
Earnhardt moved from 31st to 17th in the first lap back to green.
McDowell and Elliott got together on lap 97 exiting turn 2; Elliott shot across the track and hit the car of Bayne. Both Bayne and Elliott were able to make it to the pits but both had extensive damage.
Green came out on lap 101; Kenseth had the lead by the end of the lap, Suarez second; Earnhardt was ninth.
McMurray took second on lap 103. Johnson took advantage and grabbed the lead. It was two by two behind.
Harvick spun on lap 105 after blowing a tire exiting turn 2; he swept up Earnhardt who was in seventh, Kahne, and Keselowski along with Matt DiBenedetto; Earnhardt’s day was done as he as forced to head to the garage.
The leaders pitted. Bowyer stayed out as did Stenhouse, Gaughan, AJ Almendinger, and Kenseth.
Green came out on lap 110. Stenhouse took the lead and was soon blocking, Blaney had charged to second by the end of the lap. Bowyer had second the next. The top four were running the high side on lap 112. It was Stenhouse, Bowyer, Kenseth, and Ty Dillon.
The field was single file by lap 115.
Keselowski spun in turn 4 on lap 116 and caution 10 came out. Keselowski took his car directly to the garage. Among those pitting, Blaney, and Hamlin.
Kenseth led, Ty Dillon was second when the green came out on lap 120. Kenseth took the lead but on the backstretch Kahne was turned by Ragan and the 11th caution came out. Kahne spun on the inside, hit nothing and continued.
The leaders stayed out and green came out on lap 123. Kenseth was able to stretch out to the lead; Jones was second, Wallace third, Blaney fourth.
Wallace and Blaney were side by side for second on lap 126. Blaney shot to the lead on the same lap. Wallace began to lose spots on the inside after getting no help. Johnson and Kenseth were side by side behind.
Caution 12 came out on lap 128 when DiBenedetto in 9th lost a tire and hit the wall.
None of the leaders pitted and green came out on lap 132. Blaney took the lead , Bowyer was second; by the end of the lap Suarez and Stenhouse were fighting for second. Kahne was fourth.
Stenhouse was looking for the lead at the start of lap 135 and soon it was three wide for the lead; Kahne emerged as the leader on the next lap. Suarez was second on the outside; Bowyer and Kenseth were close behind.
Suarez had the lead on lap 138.
Soon Suarez and Kahne were swapping the lead.
Kahne had a clear lead by lap 140. Kenseth had a clear second a lap later.
With 20 laps to go the top 10 were single file.
It was again two lanes however by lap 148. Stenhouse took the lead on lap 149 after fighting his way forward with little help on the inside. Ty Dillon was second with Kahne just beside him.
Dillon was credited with the lead at the start of lap 151. Larson had fought his way forward and was second by lap 152. Near the end of the lao on the front stretch; Stenhouse got into Larson who was sent into the air and set off a massive crash that included Kurt and Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Blaney, Wallace and Patrick.
NASCAR threw the red flag. It lasted 8 minutes 41 seconds.
Ty Dillon was the leader, Ragan was second, Allmendinger was third followed by Stenhouse and Menard.
Green came out on lap 157, a three-lap shootout. On the green flag lap Ragan took the lead, but Hamlin and Jones got together after McMurray tapped Jones on the backstretch; both went spinning and caution 14 came out and set up a green-white-checkered flag finish. Kahne and Johnson pitted.
The top five on the restart: Ragan, Dillon, Stenhouse, Allmendinger and McDowell. Ragan took the lead but by the end of the lap he was swallowed up and Stenhouse took the lead. On the final lap, Elliott spun entering turn 2 but kept going, and Stenhouse was able to score the win.
Bowyer charged to second on the final lap followed by Menard, McDowell, and Ryan Newman.
Ragan held on for sixth followed by Gaughan, Allmendinger, Jones and Chris Buescher.
The Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400 next Saturday night.