VIDEO: The ‘Big One’ finally strikes late at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 19: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 gener8tor Ford, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 Castrol Edge Ford, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/PEAK Ford,Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota, Chase Briscoe, driver of the #14 Mahindra Tractors Ford, and Daniel Hemric, driver of the #31 Cirkul Chevrolet, spin after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Apart from a small incident involving a few cars in the opening laps, the 2024 Daytona 500 featured intense racing but no wrecks. That all changed in the closing laps of the race as patience wore thin with the checkered flag in flight.

With eight to go, Ford drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski battled amongst each other as they tried to get around leader Ross Chastain. When Logano moved up the track, drivers behind looked to fill the gap.

Alex Bowman pushed William Byron hard, turning him into the rear of Brad Keselowski, sending the No. 6 car up the track into the No. 22 and leaving the track cluttered as the rest of the field roared in.

The wreck ultimately collected 22 drivers: Cindric, Larson, Keselowski, Elliott, Gragson, Hamlin, Blaney, Briscoe, Buescher, Truex Jr, Bell, Logano, Byron, Hemric, Gilliland, Preece, Jones, Stenhouse Jr, Bowman, Gibbs, Alfredo, and Suárez.

The red flag came out for a little over fifteen minutes for cleanup, setting up a four lap dash to the finish of the Daytona 500, at least for the cars that survived the wreck. Byron ended up victorious ahead of Bowman after a caution on the last lap for another wreck.

Joey Logano, who sat on the pole, led the most laps of the race prior to the crash, and looked to have the car to beat, accepted that the result was a natural product of superspeedway racing.

“Speedway racing again. It’s a lot of fun until this happens,” Logano said.

“The pushes are stupid the whole time. The whole thing – everybody just gets more and more intense. You know it’s going to happen. Anyone can see it happening. You just know it,” he explained of the predicament facing drivers.

“It happens every year. With 10 to go there’s going to be a caution. You just hope you’re not in it and you can’t ride around. You can’t just sit there and not race because you’ll be too far back and won’t win that way. You just have to be one of the lucky guys right now like the 24 [Byron], the 48 [Bowman]… that are still alive to do it. It’s usually the people that start the wreck that stay alive. That’s the frustrating part.”

Logano must have been especially frustrated that Byron went on to win. For his part, Byron didn’t feel he deserved any blame, but the wreck was not top of his mind while he celebrated his victory.

“Obviously, hate what happened on that backstretch,” Byron briefly said of the accident. “I just got pushed and got sideways.”

Brad Keselowski, who was pushing Logano before making his own moves for the lead, was equally resigned.

“It’s just one of those deals,” Keselowski said. “We were mixed up in the middle of the soup most of the race. We executed really well in the final stage and put ourselves in position, but that’s just the way Daytona goes.”

Tyler Reddick, who was running seventeenth before being collected, explained how drivers in the pack just had nowhere to go.

“You know, you get to the end there and no one’s really lifting, right? We’re pushing really aggressively, trying to be in the conversation, right? Trying to be one of the front cars in the top or bottom lane. Looks like the 24 [Byron] and 48 [Bowman] are pushing really hard and you know, at some point when you’re pushing that hard, you’re going to get out of shape a little bit.

“Unfortunately, I got into the 6 [Keselowski]. I saw everyone wrecking there in front of me, just got caught up in it.”

The Daytona 500 may have been postponed to Monday after heavy rain, but the big wreck that has become a hallmark of the race certainly wasn’t missing and completely changed the complexion of the race in the closing laps.

Owen Johnson