24 year-old Joey Logano, who started Sunday’s race in the fifth position, overcame a host of big names to become the second-youngest winner of the Daytona 500. The newly married man led just 31 laps on the day, but found the lead in a wild last two laps and was able to coast across the finish line due to a green-white-yellow-checkered finish.
“There was a lot of anxiety and a lot of nerves before the race,” Logano said. “It couldn’t be any better. It’s an amazing feeling that I can’t really put into words.”
Despite his win, Logano was nowhere to be heard in conversations during the week. Arguably the biggest storyline at Daytona was Jeff Gordon participating in his final race at the famed track. Gordon started in the pole position and led for a race-high 87 laps, but a late wreck gave him a 33rd place finish.
“I’m a little sad because this is my final Daytona 500,” Gordon said. “But I’m more upset that we didn’t have a shot to win at the end.”
Another notable name that’s certainly very well known around Daytona International is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was looking to become the first back-to-back champion since Sterling Marlin in 1995. Junior was in contention throughout the race, but made a strategic error on a restart with 19 laps to go that dropped him from the front of the pack. He did battle back for a third place finish, but felt he could have got to victory lane.
“We had a really fast car, maybe the best car here,” Earnhardt said. “I’m just a little disappointed I let the guys down, we should’ve won the race.”
Earnhardt Jr. and his father were previously the only drivers to win the Daytona 500 when starting the race in the top five; Joey Logano joined that pair on Sunday. This was Logano’s seventh victory since the start of last season, which is tied for tops in NASCAR.