The Daytona 500 is the one of the most significant events in American sports history. The inaugural race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season took place from Feb. 16 to 17, 2020. Here is how it all went down.
The race started on Sunday, Feb. 16, with an American pre-race. The race was attended by the President of the United States as he served as the Grand Marshal. The presidential motorcade even-paced around the track with the racing field.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., a two-time Daytona 500 winner, started the race as he waved the green flag. The race, however, was suspended only 20 laps in and the race was postponed to 4 p.m. the next day.
The next day, the drivers got back to racing at Daytona. The rest of stage one went on pretty quietly until lap 58 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made slight contact to the left rear of William Byron. Byron took a wild ride across the grass and into the inside wall ending the 22-year-old’s day. NASCAR’s most popular driver, Chase Elliot, won stage one ahead of Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola.
After pit stops, it was Denny Hamlin who led the field to green for stage two. 25 laps into stage two and the yellow was brought out again as Aric Amirola and Quin Houff made contact. Almirola tried to get around Houff and made contact that sent Houff into the wall collecting BJ McLeod. Hamlin stayed in the lead long enough to claim the stage two victory over last year’s Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Hamlin led the field for the final stage and many drivers started to get more and more aggressive as the race winds down. Many lead changes occurred as well as pit stops to try and make it to the end of the race. While trying to enter pit road, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was tagged by Erik Jones. Stenhouse, with a lot of damage, was able to get to pit road safely so the green flag stayed out.
And then it happened. The “Big One” at Daytona happened with 17 laps to go. A bump by Aric Amirola triggered the wreck that took out 19 drivers. Jimmy Johnson’s final Daytona 500 ended in the wreck as this is the seven-time champion’s final full-time season in the Cup Series. The red flag was displayed to sort out all of the chaos.
With ten laps to go the race went back to green as Ryan Newman led them towards turn one. Another crash threw out the yellow flag as Timmy Hill and Reed Sorenson collided. Racing resumed with four laps to go, but another crash would put out the yellow. Ross Chastain drove too far down on to the apron which sent him up the track into Joey Logano, Ryan Preece, and others.
The race then went into overtime, but at the restart, Michael McDowell and Clint Bowyer spun into the infield grass. They would have to try again for an overtime restart and Denny Hamlin led them to green. On the final lap, Chase Elliott spun on the backstretch, but the green flag stayed out as Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Ryan Blaney fought for the lead.
On the front stretch, Ryan Blaney built up a huge run and got right on the back bumper of Ryan Newman. This sent Ryan Newman brutally into the wall. When he hit the wall his car flipped upside down and another race car struck his car sending him into the air. He slid across the front stretch in a shower of sparks and fire and came to rest on his roof.
Denny Hamlin won the race with Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher second and third. This was not on many fans minds at the moment. Medical crews rushed to Newman’s car and crews helped him into an ambulance. The ambulance rushed Newman to a local hospital where he was in critical condition with non-life-threatening injuries. Fortunately, Newman was released from the hospital on Wed Feb. 19.
The Daytona 500 saw Denny Hamlin take his third Daytona 500 victory and the start of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season begin. For racing in general, spring is the time where it heats up. The Daytona 500 kicks off and other racing leagues kick off soon too. The 2020 IndyCar Series and the 2020 Formula 1 season both kick off March 15. Hamlin is the current points leader and is looking to keep it, but it is a long way to the last race of the season in November of 2020.