It took 24 extra hours but on a clear and sunny afternoon in Daytona Beach, FL the season opening Daytona 500 finally got underway with Logano and McDowell who took the front row in Wednesday’s qualifying.

The pair would swap the lead several times in the opening laps before chaos would strike for the first time of the day when John Hunter Nemechek would get a bad push from Keselowski trying to get a third line up and going. Nemechek would get bumped down the track turning Burton who was stuck in the middle line.

Burton would collide with Hocevar spinning through the ballfield before washing up the track in the way of Preece, Johnson and others. Both Burton and Hocevar day would end just six laps in.

Stage one would continue at a slower more organized pace as drivers would ride through the remaining laps following green flag stops manufacturers would work together to the end with Chase Elliott taking home the opening stage of the day over Larson, Chastain, Bowman, and Byron who all ganged up on Kyle Busch who was the leader to beat him to the line.

Michael McDowell who would start on the outside pole would experience issues in the car following his pit stop for fuel. After getting back out he would radio the crew the car felt “sluggish” and he couldn’t get the car into fifth gear.

McDowell’s team would work with him through the remaining laps to go through the ECU and error codes to no avail, eventually going two laps down by the end of the stage.

Stage two would run caution free as drivers would continue to ride until 10 to go with business would begin to pick up with two lines forming up Busch and Cindric leaning on each other to gain an advantage for the lead. Cindric would eventually back up to the bumper of Blaney to get a shove to clear for the lead before the Chevrolet duo on the top side led by Busch and help from Byron would run the No. 2 machine back down.

With just a few laps remaining in the stage a third line would form up on the bottom with Bell and Stenhouse but wouldn’t last long before the field would run up on slower cars forcing the line to fall apart and fall back in line with the main two lines.

Busch would get back to the lead before a last moment charge coming off turn four with Blaney bailing on helping Cindric allowing the 2023 Cup Series Champion to take the stage win over Cindric, Suarez, Busch, and Reddick.

Busch, who would finish the stage in fourth place would leave pit road with a left front tire issue and smoke trailing from the car as the No. 8 machine would limp around the apron back to pit road. After limping back to pit road and making repairs to the car Busch with help from his team would keep the tire on the car and get off pit road staying on the lead lap with no penalties.

Stage three would be unlike the first two with high intensity racing from the drop of the green flag at times three lines formed up trying to take the lead with AJ Allmendinger the first up in a string of lead changes.

Spire Motorsports Corey Lajoie would charge to the front before Kyle Busch would pull out of line passing five cars to get back to the lead, this after having an issue with missing a lug under the stage caution causing the team to start at the back of the field on the restart.

Lajoie would briefly take the lead back with Hamlin in tow before the No. 11 would duck out of line in front of Busch to get a push to the lead to take over the lead as the race passed three-quarter distance.

As the race would begin to come to a close with just under 10 to go chaos would once again strike when Bowman would begin to push Byron hard down the middle line getting him loose, hooking to the bottom line collecting Keselowski and over a dozen-plus cars. Logano who started on the pole would get collected in the melee causing extensive damage to the car ending his night.

Ryan Blaney, another Penske teammate would drive his damaged No. 12 to pit road parking it to also end his night, in total 18 cars would end up involved in the lap 193 wreck.

Following a 15-plus minute red flag to clean up the 18-car wreck, NASCAR would throw the green flag for a four-lap shootout with Chastain and Byron leading the field.

With the green flag in the air and four laps to go, Chastain and Byron would draw even for the lead heading into the final turn heading to the white flag when Cindric and Chastain would make contact with each other wrecking through the ball field as the white flag would be displayed for Byron.

As the pair would slide through the infield, NASCAR would throw the caution flag taking a few moments to go back and review the video before finally declaring the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by William Byron had taken the white flag officially ending the race handing 66th Daytona 500 victory to Byron and Hendrick Motorsports who are in the 40th season in NASCAR.

“Obviously hate what happened on that backstretch. I just got pushed and got sideways. But so proud of this team, whole AXALTA team, 40th anniversary to the day, on Monday. Just extremely blessed and thankful for all the opportunities, and we just want to keep it going. We have a lot to prove this year, and this is a good start, obviously.” Said Byron

“I’m just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500, I can’t believe it. I wish my dad was here. He’s sick, but this is for him, man. We’ve been through so much, and we sat up in the grandstands together and watched the race. This is so freaking cool.” Continued Byron

Rounding out the top-five would be teammate Alex Bowman, Bell, Lajoie and AJ Allmendinger, four of which were Chevrolet powered machines who had come into Speedweeks behind both Toyota who took home both the duels and Ford who broke the Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports front row with Logano and McDowell.

Logano would end up wrecked in the lap 193 incident finishing 25th and out of the race with McDowell who also started on the front row finishing 24 laps down in 36th after experiencing extensive electrical issues in the car following the first stage. 

The NASCAR Cup Series now moves onto Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday, February 25th at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX.