NASCAR Cup Series rookie Austin Cindric beat Bubba Wallace to the finish line by .036 seconds in overtime to win the 64th annual Daytona 500.
Austin Cindric fought off Wallace and Chase Briscoe in a thrilling finish at Daytona International Speedway in NASCAR’s new Next Gen race car to win his first Cup race in his eighth outing in the series.
Cindric took the lead at the start of the two-lap overtime, but as the final lap began, Blaney pushed him out front as he tried to go high side to get by Cindric, but Cindric blocked his move and collided with Blaney’s No. 12 Ford.
Cindric changed lanes as soon as he’d cleared Blaney to put himself in front of his teammate for the final two laps around the course. Blaney made a frantic attempt to go around Cindric from a high vantage point, but Cindric threw a massive block, forcing Blaney into the outside wall.
Bubba Wallace then caught up to Cindric in the bottom lane, forcing Cindric to focus on defeating Wallace to the finish line rather than worrying about Blaney behind him.
“Oh My God – do you know what makes this even better? A packed house. A packed house at the Daytona 500,” Cindric said. “Oh my God, I’ve got so many people to thank. First and foremost Roger Penske. Happy Birthday! I appreciate Ryan being a great teammate. Obviously, he wanted to win this one.
“Everyone has worked so hard on the his Next Gen car and through the whole process… I am so excited,” Austin Cindric said as he celebrated the win.
“This makes up for losing a championship in the last race I was in (2021 Xfinity Series season finale).”
“I’m surrounded by great people, that’s all there is to it. I know there’s going to be highs and lows , being a rookie.”
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity and excited to climb the mountain ahead of us on the No. 2 team.”
“We’re in the playoffs that’s one box checked… My gosh! what an awesome group of fans; what an awesome race car. I’m just really thankful.”
Bubba Wallace finished second in the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career. Chase Briscoe finished third after recovering from an early crash, Blaney finished fourth as Aric Almirola rounded out the top-five in his final season in the Cup series.
Cindric then remembered Blaney, who had given him a strong push to the finish line but had finished fourth.
“Appreciate Ryan being a great teammate,” Cindric said. “Obviously, he wants to win this one.”
Kyle Busch finished sixth, marking the second Toyota driver in the top ten. Michael McDowell finished seventh, followed by David Ragan and Keselowski in eighth and ninth place respectively as Chase Elliott rounded out the top ten marking the first Chevrolet.
Cindric, who is racing full-time for Team Penske this year, quickly wished team owner Roger Penske, who was tuning 85 on Sunday, a “Happy Birthday” after the race.
The race was the first time NASCAR’s Next Generation race car competed in an official NASCAR event, and it appeared to go off without a hitch. However, some teams experienced issues with the new single lug nut layout on the wheels, and a few others had trouble moving their cars away after flat tires.
In the final lap, it was NASCAR’s young stars that led the field. Cindric, Wallace, Briscoe, and Blaney are all under the age of 30, with Cindric being the youngest at 23 years old. Wallace, who is in his second season with his 23XI squad, said the race result left him “dejected,” but praised the team’s overall performance and second-place finish.
Cindric stayed in contention despite repeated multi-car accidents that forced top racers to retire. With nine laps remaining, the race was red-flagged after Kyle Larson’s huge charge behind Kevin Harvick drove Harvick spinning.
A lap after the restart, another collision involving previous leaders Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chris Buescher brought out the caution, forcing overtime.
Other severe collisions earlier in the day claimed the cars of Cup series veterans, including three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, a playoff contender. After series rookie Harrison Burton wrecked from the head of the pack and collected many cars, Hamlin was out of the race by the end of the first stage.
Brad Keselowski pushed Burton hard on his bumper, which resulted in Burton losing control of his Ford, colliding with William Byron and Ross Chastain. Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch were also involved in the accident, and their cars were also totaled.
Provisional results Daytona 500
1. Austin Cindric
2. Bubba Wallace
3. Chase Briscoe
4. Ryan Blaney
5. Aric Almirola
6. Kyle Busch
7. Michael McDowell
8. David Ragan
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Chase Elliott
11. Ty Dillon
12. Daniel Hemric
13. Martin Truex Jr
14. Corey LaJoie
15. Landon Cassill
16. Chris Buescher
17. Cody Ware
18. Daniel Suarez
19. Kurt Busch
20. Cole Custer
21. Joey Logano
22. Jacques Villeneuve
23. Justin Haley
24. Alex Bowman
25. Austin Dillon
26. Kaz Grala
27. BJ McLeod
28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
29. Erik Jones
30. Kevin Harvick
31. Noah Gragson
32. Kyle Larson
33. Todd Gilliland
34. Tyler Reddick
35. Christopher Bell
36. Greg Biffle
37. Denny Hamlin
38. William Byron
39. Harrison Burton
40. Ross Chastain