Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did all he could to imitate his Talladega Superspeedway victory in May. Imitate he did. But this time, it was at Daytona International Speedway.
The blue-soaked No. 17 Ford took the point from fellow blue oval competitor David Ragan coming to the white flag in the Coke Zero 400, to capture his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series triumph. Stenhouse held off Clint Bowyer coming to the checkered flag, earning Roush Fenway Racing its first trophy at Daytona since Matt Kenseth won the 2012 Daytona 500.
“This validates what we did at Talladega,” Stenhouse said in Victory Lane. “I want to first off thank all the troops that have fallen for our country, for our freedom. That is most important right now. Thank the good Lord for letting me come out here and do what I do for a living and work with this great group of guys. We have been working hard at Roush Fenway and this pushes us further along.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 2, 2017
Stenhouse now has 10 bonus points heading into the playoffs, putting him tied for second in NASCAR’s premier division.
Racing in the top 10 with seven laps remaining, Kyle larson slid up into Stenhouse coming to the tri-oval, sending the No. 42 car airborne in a wreck eerily similar to his 2013 wreck when he went into the fence and his engine went flying out of the car.
Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s day began with plenty of attention in his final scheduled start at Daytona. But the evening didn’t go the way he planned, finishing 32nd after being involved in multiple incidents.
Earnhardt’s first piece of adversity came on lap 51 after he hit the wall by himself, dragging his banged up car to pit road under green flag conditions. He said it was caused by contact with Paul Menard, giving the No. 88 car a flat tire and putting him two laps down.
Come the final stage of the race, Earnhardt positioned himself in the top 10 after multiple timely cautions to give him the free pass. He worked up to sixth, but his car succumbed to battle wounds from a lap 105 wreck that started when Kevin Harvick blew a tire coming off Turn 2.
Harvick, who was coming off a win at Sonoma Raceway, finished 33rd. Brad Keselowski, who also spun out during that incident, didn’t hit anything at the time. However, he hit the wall 11 circuits later, putting an end to his night.
The original “Big One” came on lap 70, when Kyle Busch blew a tire in Turn 2, shooting down on the pack to take out several contenders. Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon and Joey Logano each brought their machines to the garage prematurely, putting an end to their hopes at reaching the Winner’s Circle.
Busch was able to recover, getting his No. 18 car back on the lead lap even after sustaining damage during the accident, finishing 20th.
Menard made a charge at the end of the race, finishing third for his first top five since the Daytona 500. Michael McDowell earned a career-best fourth-place finish, which is his first top five in 230 Cup starts.
For the first time since Nov. 2004, Brendan Gaughan finished inside the top 10 in a Cup race. The driver of the No. 75 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet ended the 400-mile contest in seventh, the team’s first top 10 in three starts.
Rookie Corey LaJoie came home 11th for BK Racing, piloting the team’s No. 23 car. His best career finish entering Daytona was 24th in the season-opener.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway next weekend, featuring back-to-back Saturday night races. The Quaker State 400 can be seen at 7:30 p.m. ET next Saturday on NBCSN.
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