|PHOTO: Jonathan Fjeld, @Jonathan_Fjeld|
by Brock Beard
Ty Dillon picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s 65th Annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #77 Ferris Chevrolet lost the engine after 26 of 212 laps.
The finish, which came in Dillon’s 203rd series start, was his first since May 12, 2018 at Kansas, 169 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 40th for the #77, the 715th from an engine, and the 831st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #77, the 1,131st from engine issues, and the 1,871st for Chevrolet.
Following his last-place finish in Race 1 of Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacation Duel (LINK), Dillon secured the 37th spot on the starting grid and didn’t participate in final practice on Saturday.
Rolling off 40th and last was Travis Pastrana, whose #67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota was last in Duel Race 2 after he was collected in the Turn 3 crash triggered by contact between race leaders Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez. The wreck destroyed Busch’s #8 3CHI Chevrolet, sending the team to a backup car. This incurred Busch a tail-end penalty for Sunday, where he’d start a re-wrapped car from teammate Austin Dillon. This resulted in a car where Dillon’s car number “3” was visible on the doors beneath the wrap of his number “8.”
Helped by Pastrana’s wreck, which also collected other “open” diver Austin Hill in the #62 Bennett Chevrolet, Conor Daly secured the final transfer spot into Sunday’s field. He did so in The Money Team Racing’s #50 Bitnile Chevrolet, which suffered a massive vibration at the beginning of his qualifier. The issue was resolved during the race, but a new problem sprung up on Sunday – his rear-view camera wouldn’t work, and the driver couldn’t see anything behind him over the rear spoiler. Just like on Thursday, he had no choice but to drive through it.
When the green flag dropped, Busch dropped to the final row, 3.692 seconds back of the lead and just ahead of a returning Jimmie Johnson, who was just 17-thousandths of a second behind Busch. By the end of Lap 1, the field remained in two-by-two formation with Johnson’s #84 Carvana Chevrolet from the Legacy Motor Club now just ahead of Busch, 2.15 seconds back of the lead.
|Dillon's car pushed to the garage early in the race.|
PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas
The field remained in formation for several laps, causing last place to change hands frequently with each driver just a few hundredths from 39th place. As Johnson said his car felt “a little bouncy,” Busch put him to last on Lap 4, then Johnson moved Ty Dillon to last for the first time on Lap 9. Dillon moved ahead of Johnson on Lap 10 by just 0.016 second, then Johnson ahead of Dillon on Lap 11. Johnson was last on Lap 12, then Cody Ware in the #51 Biohaven Ford on Lap 14, just 0.091 back of Dillon. Ware then dispensed of Dillon the next time by, and both moved past Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #47 Cottonelle Chevrolet on Lap 16. On Lap 17, Stenhouse inched ahead of Daly, who at that point was still 2.399 seconds back of the lead and just 0.058 back of Stenhouse. Stenhouse moved Dillon back to 39th by Lap 19, but Pastrana was 39th by Lap 22 and Ross Chastain in the #1 Advent Health Chevrolet on Lap 24. By the time Chastain took the spot from Daly, the tail end of the field slowly began to string out by tenths of a second, ranging from one to four-tenths. On Lap 25, Chastain was last with Daly 39th, Pastrana 38th, and Stenhouse 37th.
On Lap 26, Dillon was running 35th when his car started to trail smoke, forcing him to pull to the high lane. Chastain’s spotter warned him as he moved past the ailing #77, which prepared to come down pit road. “Sounds like a plug wire came off,” said Dillon as he came down pit road. Now in last and off the lead lap on Lap 28, Dillon’s crew pushed him behind the wall. Not long after on Lap 31, someone on the radio said, “Alright, boys, we’re done.” The on-board camera was shut off, and NASCAR confirmed Dillon was the first retiree on Lap 44.
After a clean, but intense first half of the race, a series of progressively larger accidents completed the Bottom Five. On Lap 118, contact in Turns 3 and 4 sent Tyler Reddick’s #45 Monster Energy Toyota into the outside wall. Erik Jones spun to avoid him in the #43 Guns N’ Roses Chevrolet, only to back into the path of Chase Elliott’s #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. All three were eliminated. It wasn’t until Lap 182 that another driver fell out – Ryan Preece, whose #41 HaasTooling.com Ford suffered significant left-front damage in a wreck entering Turn 3.
Riley Herbst’s 10th-place debut among Sunday’s surprises
At the scene of his surprising pole in 2020, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. picked up the win – his first since 2017, and the first for JTG-Daugherty Racing since 2014.
Not far behind, the Rick Ware Racing duo of Cody Ware and Riley Herbst both earned strong finishes. Herbst, making his Cup debut in the #15 SunnyD Ford, bounced back from a spin entering pit road that incurred him a controversial commitment cone penalty from NASCAR. He finished 10th, four spots ahead of teammate Cody Ware in 14th. For Ware, it’s his second consecutive top-fifteen finish at Daytona, following his career-best 6th here last August.
Two of the four “open” entries also filled the Top 15. Though involved in the last-lap pileup in Turn 2, Travis Pastrana led two laps and steered the #67 to an 11th-place showing. Two spots behind, Zane Smith completed a dream week with a 13th-place finish in Front Row Motorsports’ #36 Wellcare Ford, improving on his 17th-place debut as Chris Buescher’s relief driver last June in Gateway.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #77 in a Cup Series points race at Daytona, and the second in a row for Spire Motorsports’ #77 team, combined with Landon Cassill’s in last fall’s Phoenix finale.
*Despite running just 26 laps, Ty Dillon ran more laps than 22 of the previous 64 last-place finishers of the Daytona 500.
*Ty Dillon is the first driver to finish last in both his Duel Qualifying Race and the 500 since 1992, when Bob Schacht had engine issues after 7 laps of both Race 2 of the 125s and the 500.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #77-Ty Dillon / 26 laps / engine
39) #45-Tyler Reddick / 117 laps / crash
38) #9-Chase Elliott / 118 laps / crash
37) #43-Erik Jones / 118 laps / crash
36) #41-Ryan Preece / 181 laps / crash
2023 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Spire Motorsports (1)
2023 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (1)
2023 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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