Stenhouse Continues Daytona’s Love of Dark Horses

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 19 2023

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., gets carried away after winning the 2023 Daytona 500 on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Around these parts, “Magic” is synonymous with a Mouse and his Kingdom based just outside of nearby Orlando.

But as darkness descended 60 miles to the northeast in Volusia County on a 70 degree Sunday evening, an underdog driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and his team, owned by the oddball pairing of husband and wife tandem Tad and Jodi Geshickter along with retired NBA player Brad Daugherty, whipped up a little magic of their own to score a major upset to capture NASCAR’s crown jewel event.

The pre-race unpredictably of the 65th running of Sunday’s Daytona 500 had crystal balls working overtime and bookies on edge as no single driver stood head and shoulders as a clear-cut favorite.

And when it came to Stenhouse, the 35-year-old’s odds of winning the Great American Race in a Chevrolet fielded by a single-car team fell squarely into the longshot category.

As brilliant sunshine began to envelope Daytona International Speedway, thousands of fans slowly began filing the picture-perfect swath of grass, seemingly on loan from Augusta National Golf Club, which separates pit road and towering frontstretch grandstands.

They had gathered to enjoy a full-blown concert from Grand Ole Opry star Dierks Bentley and get a glimpse of their favorite celebrity and/or driver.

As anticipation began to build with race time approaching, all in attendance were in for a special treat.

The customary pre-race flyover by the Blue Thunderbirds following the singing of the National Anthem wound up evolving into a breathtaking 20-minute airshow.

Once the final jet had buzzed the World Center of Racing, it was time for the Boys of Thunder to take center stage and kickoff a new season in the sport’s biggest race of the year.

Once comedic actress Tiffany Haddish waved the green flag to send the field on a 200 lap journey, the racing was intense from the get-go until a series of pit stops beginning on lap 42 separated the cars into smaller packs.

Ten laps later, Bubba Watson’s Golden Arches Toyota slammed the outside wall thanks to a backstretch bump draft which went awry.

The Alabama native managed to nurse his Camry to pit road and the dreams of one of the favorites to win the Great American Race and hoist the Harley Jr. Early hardware awarded to the winner appeared to vanish.

When stage one concluded on lap 65 flashed, former Cup champion Brad Keselowski was the leader and awarded the optimum amount of in-race points.

The lead changes continued to come fast-and-furious just prior to the end of stage two after Kevin Harvick’s bump draft to the rear of Tyler Reddick’s Toyota got his No. 45 Camry out of shape and prompted the day’s first caution for an on-track incident.

Reddick’s misfortune wound up ruining the day for several stragglers who had intentionally been riding near the rear of the field to avoid trouble. The plan backfired as a group of cars, most notably the Chevrolet driven by Chase Elliott, was swept into the aftermath.

Following a quick visit to the Care Center, the second-generation’s next race was to the airport outside of Turn 3 and to the airplane he pilots to carry him to his home in Dawsonville, Ga.

As the final stage got underway, the lead changes and green flag racing continued to go full bore with a pack of Fords showing the way, led by Aric Almirola,Keselowski and Chris Buescher.

With former Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs looking on, Denny Hamlin grabbed the lead by pushing his No. 11 Camry to the top of the leaderboard. But his time at the top was short-lived as Ford’s Blue Oval brigade quickly relegated Hamlin’s Toyota back to fifth in the running order.

With 25 laps remaining, several “feel good” stories started to emerge, most noticeably in Ryan Preece, who caught a major break during the offseason by landing a ride in Stewart Haas Racing’s No. 41 Ford, Harrison Burton, who was wheeling the legendary Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Mustang, and Stenhouse’s No. 47 Chevrolet. .

Burton, Joey Logano, William Byron, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson had emerged as the new Top 5 once the race’s round of money stops had concluded on lap 177.

But with 19 laps remaining, the fifth caution flag of the event waved when Turn 3 became littered with parts and pieces after Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota got sideways to trigger a multi-car accident with an accordion-like effect through the field. For any other vehicular accidents, it’s a difference maker to contact reliable professionals like those who know the Florida DUI Penalties.

The biggest blow was dealt to SHR, which saw all three of its Mustangs (driven by Preece, Chase Briscoe and Alimora) collected in the melee.

Once order was restored, the leaders fell into single-file formation with Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon pacing the field.

With just under two laps remaining, it appeared race leader Busch might finally win the Daytona 500, seemingly the only prize that has eluded him during his 18-year NASCAR career.

As the field roared down the backstretch with the white flag nearly in sight, a blown tire on the No. 99 Chevrolet piloted by Daniel Suarez put Busch’s party plans on hold and sent the 500 into overtime.

In the first attempt to crown a champion and with the track’s elaborate lighting system fully-illuminated, Dillon got clipped on the backstretch to trigger the second multi-car pileup of the day.

But Ol’ Lady Luck smiled on Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Larson, Christopher Bell, Logano and A.J. Allmendinger, who had dodged the carnage and suddenly found themselves at the top of the leaderboard with what would turn out to be the race’s final restart looming.

Stenhouse parlayed a great restart into a slight edge over the swarming pack in his mirror once the green flag reappeared.

But once the white flag unfurled, Logano had pulled alongside Stenhouse, creating a David versus Goliath showdown on the final lap finish with the Daytona 500 on the line. .

Could Stenhouse’s No. 47 Chevrolet, adorned with sponsorship cobbled together by team co-owner Tad Geschickter, outduel Logano and his powerful Team Penske Ford?

When Larson’s Chevrolet got tagged and slammed the Turn 2 wall, the drag race to the imaginary backstretch finish line was on.

Once NASCAR declared Stenhouse the narrow winner over Logano, the sellout crowd voiced its approval in the form of a thunderous roar.

While it might not quite fall into the “Victory for the Ages” category, it certainly was a “Victory for the Little Guy.”

Released from Roush Fenway Racing at the conclusion of the 2019 season, Stenhouse had suddenly come full circle and rejuvenated his once-promising career.

The victory was just the second in the history of JTG Daugherty Racing, the first coming at Watkins Glen in 2014 when A.J. Allmendinger outdueled Marcos Ambrose. It was the third career victory for Stenhouse, whose two other wins came in  Roush Fenway Racing Fords in 2017.

Sunday’s big payday will likely provide additional financial resources needed to be competitive on a week-to-week basis in the immediate future. It should also lead to additional technical support from Chevrolet.

And from a bragging rights standpoint, racing’s little guys won’t soon forget the night their single car team, with an assist from some Daytona magic, defeated the powerful Team Penske racing empire to claim stock car racing’s most-coveted prize.


NASCAR Cup Series Race – DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 19, 2023

  1. (31)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 212.
  2. (3)  Joey Logano, Ford, 212.
  3. (5)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 212.
  4. (9)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 212.
  5. (1)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 212.
  6. (29)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 212.
  7. (24)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 212.
  8. (7)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 212.
  9. (23)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 212.
  10. (38)  Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 212.
  11. (40)  Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 212.
  12. (13)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 212.
  13. (17)  Zane Smith(i), Ford, 212.
  14. (35)  Cody Ware, Ford, 212.
  15. (16)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 212.
  16. (12)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 212.
  17. (18)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 212.
  18. (2)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.
  19. (36)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.
  20. (15)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 211.
  21. (4)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 211.
  22. (10)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 211.
  23. (6)  Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 210.
  24. (22)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 210.
  25. (33)  Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 210.
  26. (19)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 210.
  27. (14)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 208.
  28. (11)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 208.
  29. (34)  Conor Daly(i), Chevrolet, 206.
  30. (32)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 204.
  31. (39)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
  32. (28)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
  33. (27)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 202.
  34. (21)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 202.
  35. (30)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, Accident, 182.
  36. (20)  Ryan Preece, Ford, Accident, 181.
  37. (25)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 118.
  38. (8)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 118.
  39. (26)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, Accident, 117.
  40. (37)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Engine, 26.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  145.283 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 38 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 38 laps.

Lead Changes:  52 among 21 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Bowman 0;K. Larson 1;A. Bowman 2-10;K. Larson 11-12;C. Bell 13-20;K. Larson 21-23;C. Bell 24-34;A. Almirola 35;A. Bowman 36-37;C. Bell 38;*. Pastrana 39-40;D. Hamlin 41;C. Briscoe 42;D. Hamlin 43-47;C. Briscoe 48-51;M. Truex Jr. 52-64;B. Keselowski 65-67;R. Preece 68-71;B. Keselowski 72;A. Almirola 73;B. Keselowski 74-76;A. Almirola 77-79;B. Keselowski 80;A. Almirola 81;B. Keselowski 82-108;K. Harvick 109;J. Logano 110;R. Blaney 111;J. Logano 112-115;C. Buescher 116;J. Logano 117;C. Buescher 118-121;J. Logano 122-125;R. Chastain 126;J. Logano 127;R. Chastain 128-132;A. Bowman 133;B. Wallace 134-137;A. Almirola 138-142;B. Wallace 143;A. Almirola 144-145;C. Buescher 146;A. Almirola 147-148;C. Buescher 149-153;A. Almirola 154;C. Buescher 155-175;D. Suarez 176-178;H. Burton 179-187;J. Logano 188;A. Allmendinger 189;B. Keselowski 190-196;K. Busch 197-202;R. Stenhouse Jr. 203-212.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Brad Keselowski 6 times for 42 laps; Chris Buescher 5 times for 32 laps; Christopher Bell 3 times for 20 laps; Aric Almirola 8 times for 16 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 13 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 12 laps; Joey Logano 6 times for 12 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 10 laps; Harrison Burton 1 time for 9 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 6 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 6 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 6 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 6 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 5 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 5 laps; Ryan Preece 1 time for 4 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 3 laps; * Travis Pastrana 1 time for 2 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 1 lap; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 6,41,17,4,34,54,84,10,19,38

Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,48,47,22,2,19,24,16,17,20


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 19 2023
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