Austin Cindric, running for rookie of the year honors in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022, is the champion of the Daytona 500. Cindric, 23, held off Bubba Wallace and teammate Ryan Blaney in NASCAR Overtime to secure his first victory at NASCAR’s top-level.
“I’m surrounded by great people. That’s all there is to it,” Cindric said in a post-race interview. “I know there’s going to be highs and lows, being a rookie in a field of drivers this strong. I’m just grateful for the opportunity, excited to climb the mountain we’ve got ahead of us on the 2 team.”
The Mooresville, North Carolina-native was able to make the final pass for the lead on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with eight laps to go, just moments before Stenhouse’s Kroger Chevrolet was turned by Brad Keselowski, triggering the event’s seventh and final caution.
Keselowski, in his first points-paying event as an owner-driver, led a race-high 67 laps on Sunday, but was unable to keep his nose clean throughout the event, triggering three separate multi-car incidents, including one on the final lap.
On Lap 64, Keselowski attempted to push Harrison Burton to the race lead, when he turned the No. 21 Ford Mustang sideways, in front of the pack. The rookie then was struck by Christopher Bell, sending his entry upside down on the backstretch.
William Byron, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman, and Ross Chastain were among the others involved in the first multi-car accident of the day.
The beneficiary from the accident on Lap 64 was Martin Truex Jr., who was able to hold back advances to win the race’s first stage, before making a move for the lead 65 laps later to capture the victory in the second stage.
However, Truex’s No. 19 was involved in the second multi-car accident of the event, when Tyler Reddick spun exiting turn four, sliding in front of the pack, collecting Joey Logano, and Jacques Villeneuve, amongst others.
Truex would rebound to earn a lead-lap finish, coming home 13th.
As if enough cars hadn’t been torn up yet, contact between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson triggered a six-car pileup, that took out Todd Gilliland and Noah Gragson, who were both having strong top-15 runs at the time of the accident. This caution, proceeded by the race’s only red flag, set up a four-lap dash to the finish.
In the final two laps of the race, cars were jockeying for position and fighting for the best spot they could possibly earn in the season-opener, when coming to the checkered flag, Brad Keselowski got into David Ragan, triggering another accident that included 2021 Daytona 500 winner, Michael McDowell.
Bubba Wallace finished in second-place, with Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney, and Aric Almirola rounding out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-10.
Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to California Speedway for the first-time in two years, where drivers and teams will attempt to get a hold of the Next Gen car, and Team Penske will try to continue their early-season advantage.