Daytona International Speedway is always a wild, chaotic, survival of the fittest type race, and the first round of the MPI Cup was no exception. Austin Reedy rebounded in a massive way after an end of line penalty sent him to the back at the field to take the checkered flag in the MPI Cup Daytona 500.
It actually didn’t take long for Reedy to power his machine to the front, as he was battling in the top ten just thirty laps into the race. He eventually moved up to the point of the field, and led at numerous different points during the event.
The wrecks started early, with the caution first coming out on lap 11 after a big wreck entering the tri-oval involving five or six drivers. The wreck ended the day for a number of contenders running inside the top ten, including Bill Schoonover, who started from the pole position.
The chaos kept coming from there, as there was another crash in stage one on lap 47.
Mario Merenda would lead at the end of stage one, after a huge push from outside pole sitter, teammate, and TobyChristie.com driver Shayne Wyatt, who ended up getting loose and falling outside of the top ten coming to the line before the stage break.
On lap 106, during green flag pit stops, Shane Parish turned teammate Eric Stanford hard into the outside wall, leading to a major shakeup in the field. However, something that remained the same was the front row, as Merenda, who was a front-runner consistently throughout the race, inherited the lead alongside a rebounding Wyatt.
Merenda not only had a great car running up front, but a great car in traffic too, as he sliced his way through the pack from the last starting position on the grid. It didn’t take long for the yellow flag to wave again, as on lap 112, Merenda got loose off of four, nearly causing a huge incident. Somehow though, he managed to hang onto his #99 machine, and almost everyone made it through unscathed.
As they say, cautions breed cautions, and that was the case here, as two more cautions would fly in the seven laps before the end of the second stage. Warren Kieth in his #42 Chevrolet would come out of the calamity first to take the stage two victory.
At the start of stage three, there were just 26 cars remaining on the lead lap. There was a lot of semi-clean mixing and matching at the front over the first 12 laps of the stage, until the inevitable happened, and we got the biggest wreck of the day. Almost a dozen cars were wrecked after the No. 5 car of Ross Harlow got shuffled out of line and was turned into the rest of the field.
By this point, we again saw the familiar sight of Wyatt and Merenda leading us to green, and they managed to get in line with their BRM teammate Issac Mock. They controlled the race up until the caution flag flew for the ninth time with 38 to go.
Following pit stops, the two Austins, Reedy and Shoemaker, used strategy to propel themselves to the front. Shoemaker was quickly shuffled outside the top five on the restart, but Reedy maintained the lead. Kieth would retake point with 32 to go. Shoemaker would be the next driver to power his way back to the front with 30 to go. Shortly after the #14 took the lead, another yellow would fly.
By this point, there were less than 20 lead lap cars duking it out for the win. Surprisingly, the field made it 12 laps before wrecking again, as Wyatt and Zach Wilson received heavy damage after being thrown into the outside wall. Austin Reedy would restart from the front, ahead of Kieth, Shoemaker, and Merenda.
Chaos struck yet again with seven to go, as Merenda turned Shoemaker at the front of the field, taking out a number of contenders, including the #42 of Kieth and Shoemaker.
Now, Reedy and Merenda were the front two with just four laps to settle the winner of the Daytona 500. Merenda used a massive push from Alex Muscarella to rocket to the front of the pack.
Coming to just two to go, Austin Reedy found himself outside of the top five. But, using one of the biggest runs you’ll ever see, he found himself back at the point at the white flag. Going into turn three, Richard Swavely, a non-factor practically all day, dove low using a push from Merenda to take the lead from Reedy. Behind him, Merenda was turned and took almost the entire field with him, leaving Reedy and Swavely to settle it at the front.
Reedy had more momentum and would take the lead and the win. Swavely, even after getting into the wall multiple times over the course of the event, still finished second. Steven Stempien, Daniel Michel, and Lawson Peel all navigated the graveyard of destroyed race cars to round out the top five.
If you missed this race or want to watch it again, the full replay is available below courtesy of the Podium eSports Twitch channel: