Why Did NASCAR Declare Ricky Stenhouse Jr. the Daytona 500 Winner When Joey Logano Was Leading at the Start of the Last-Lap Accident?
The 2023 Daytona 500 will go down as the longest in the race’s 65-year history, which included double overtime and a record 212 laps. It also included a call at the race’s end that left some fans confused as to why NASCAR had awarded the win to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. over Joey Logano when the Team Penske car was in front of the No. 47 car at the time of the accident. Here’s why.
Joey Logano in front at start of 2023 Daytona 500 last-lap crash
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crossed the start-finish line on the white flag lap of the 2023 Daytona 500 as the leader, with Kyle Larson directly behind him and Joey Logano leading the outside lane. Those three cars would all be involved in a chaotic finish just moments later.
It started on the outside when Aric Almirola got into the right rear of Travis Pastrana, which set off a chain reaction as the No. 67 hit Larson, sending the No. 5 car for a hard hit into the outside wall. On his way to the wall, the Hendrick Motorsports car tapped the No. 23, which sent him left into AJ Allmendinger and his 23XI boss Denny Hamlin.
The wrecking continued and involved multiple cars, including Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and numerous others.
Why was Logano not declared the winner?
When Pastrana contacted Larson to start the multi-car pileup, replays showed Logano slightly ahead of Stenhouse. However, when the caution lights began flashing seconds later, the JTG Daugherty Racing car had edged in front of the No. 22.
Fans on social media unsurprisingly questioned why NASCAR didn’t allow the two drivers and Christopher Bell to race back to the finish line. The reason is officials in the tower have to go through a rapid decision-making process that includes: 1) determining the severity of the crash and whether any drivers would require attention, 2) if that’s the case, as it was on Sunday, then safety vehicles have to be deployed immediately, and 3) to do that, NASCAR puts out the caution to slow the cars down.
That period from step 1 to step 3, albeit just a matter of seconds, took long enough for Stenhouse to surge ahead of Logano and be declared the winner.
Two-time champion jokes about the finish
While some fans taking in their first Daytona 500 might have found the decision confusing, the runner-up finisher and 2015 winner of the Great American Race understood the process and reluctantly accepted the final verdict.
“I haven’t seen a video of how close it was when the caution came out but I heard it was closer than I want to know,” Logano told reporters after the race. He also admitted that he passed Stenhouse after the yellow because he was “in denial” of the decision.
“When they wrecked, I was leading. When the caution came out, whoever was up there wasn’t quick enough on the trigger. If it had happened a second or two sooner, I would have given that guy half the purse,” he joked. “Probably given him the whole damn thing.”
Logano is the defending Cup Series champion. He knows how hard it is to win races and titles. But the 32-year-old also recognizes that the sanctioning body’s decisions are like any other sport and can come down to a last-second call that not everyone is going to like or agree with. Not everyone liked the call on Sunday but it was the right one.