Daytona 500: William Byron wins ‘Great American Race’

William Byron; Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — William Byron won the 66th Daytona 500 under caution on Monday at Daytona International Speedway.

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“Did we win it? Did we win it?” Byron asked over his radio to his team, ESPN reported.

He did.

It was Byron’s 11th career victory on the NASCAR circuit; his last win came in September 2023 at Texas Motor Speedway. He crossed the finish line just as the white flag came out and just before the fifth caution flag of the race was waved. Ross Chastain spun out to bring out the caution, Fox Sports reported.

The 26-year-old had never finished higher than 21st place at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. He became the record sixth driver for Hendrick Motorsports to win the Daytona 500.

“I’m just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500,” Byron said in a post-race television interview. “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 (when Byron was younger). This is so freaking cool.”

It was Byron’s second win at Daytona; he won at the superspeedway during the summer of 2020.

Alex Bowman finished second, giving Hendrick Motorsports a one-two finish at NASCAR’s season-opening race. It was Hendrick’s first win at the Daytona 500 since 2013, when Jimmie Johnson took the flag, reported.

Christopher Bell placed third.

The fourth caution flag of the race was waved with eight laps to go after an 18-vehicle wreck on the back straightaway. Byron made contact with Brad Keselowski as they battled for second place. That caused a red flag to come out, and it was lifted to a yellow flag with seven laps remaining.

The green flag was waved with five laps to go.

Sunshine returned to the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway after the event was rained out on Sunday.

It was the first time a race had been postponed before the starting flag dropped since 2012, according to The Associated Press. The 2020 race squeezed in 20 laps before racing was halted.

Byron was the third Monday winner of the Daytona 500, following Matt Kenseth in 2012 and Denny Hamlin in 2020, NBC Sports reported.

In 2021, the race ended on a Monday after a rain delay of nearly six hours caused the checkered flag to be waved after midnight.

Ryan Blaney, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion, took the second stage of the race and led after 130 laps of the 200-lap race.

Chase Elliott led after the first stage of the race, leading the field after 65 laps after edging Kyle Larson. It was the second time Elliott had won a stage at the Daytona 500.

In the previous eight Daytona 500 races, there had been four last-lap passes for the lead, ESPN reported. There were only nine in the first 57 races. Crashes also dominated the past seven races, with an average of 31 vehicles involved in crashes, according to the cable sports network. There were 30 vehicles involved in wrecks during the 2023 race.

Joey Logano was trying to become the first polesitter to win the Daytona 500 since Dale Jarrett in 2000, ESPN reported. Logano was 9 years old when Jarrett pulled off the feat.

Actor and former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the grand marshal for the race.

NASCAR’s Xfinity race was originally scheduled to begin at 11:01 a.m. EST on Monday but was pushed back until after the Daytona 500, NBC Sports reported. Rain early Monday had left the superspeedway damp, according to the sports outlet.