NASCAR at Daytona 2017 Results: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Wins Caution-Filled Race

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2017

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 01:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Patriotic Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, and Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald's $1 Any Size Soft Drink Chevrolet, race during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 59th Annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 1, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

In a wild race that featured 15 cautions, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his second race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

After a handful of late cautions, Stenhouse took the lead on the final restart and held off Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard to win the race in overtime.

Here is a rundown of the top 10 finishers, courtesy of NASCAR.com:

1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2. Clint Bowyer

3. Paul Menard

4. Michael McDowell

5. Ryan Newman

6. David Ragan

7. Brendan Gaughan

8. AJ Allmendinger 

9. Erik Jones

10. Chris Buescher

While Stenhouse was already a strong bet to make the Chase due to his previous win, his second career Cup Series victory essentially locked him into the playoffs.

Kyle Larson entered the race as the leader in the points standings, and despite twice getting caught up in wrecks, he managed to extend his advantage over Martin Truex Jr.:

1. Kyle Larson: Leader (2 wins)

2. Martin Truex Jr.: -18 (2 wins)

3. Kyle Busch: -108 (0 wins)

4. Kevin Harvick: -110 (1 win)

5. Brad Keselowski: -132 (2 wins)

6. Chase Elliott: -143 (0 wins)

7. Jimmie Johnson: -151 (3 wins)

8. Jamie McMurray: -163 (0 wins)

9. Denny Hamlin: -169 (0 wins)

10. Clint Bowyer: -198 (0 wins)

11. Matt Kenseth: -222 (0 wins)

12. Joey Logano: -225 (1 win)

13. Ryan Blaney: -232 (1 win)

14. Kurt Busch: -259 (1 win)

15. Ryan Newman: -268 (1 win)

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: -272 (2 wins)

17. Erik Jones: -281 (0 wins)

18. Daniel Suarez: -313 (0 wins)

19. Trevor Bayne: -316 (0 wins)

20. Kasey Kahne: -339 (0 wins)

21. Austin Dillon: -344 (1 win)

The first stage of the race went off without much of a hitch and featured an entertaining battle for playoff points between Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Keselowski managed to beat out Junior in his final race as a full-time driver, and the disappointment got worse for Earnhardt shortly thereafter.

Early in the second stage, the 14-time winner of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award hit the wall, as seen in the following video courtesy of NASCAR on NBC:

That caused the pole-sitter to fall two laps behind, and it changed the complexion of the race since he had been running up front for the first 50 laps.

Less than 20 laps later, the first major crash of the race occurred, and it knocked several big names out of contention.

After 2015 Cup Series champion Kyle Busch lost control, he swept down the track and collected the likes of Joey Logano, Larson, Austin Dillon and Truex, among others:

The race to win the second stage continued following a caution, and it was veteran Matt Kenseth who got to the start-finish line ahead of Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.

Another top contender saw his chances take a hit early in the third and final stage when Chase Elliott spun out and hit former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne on his way to the infield grass:

The accident marked the continuation of Elliott's tough luck at Daytona over the course of his young career.

He was far from the only top-flight driver to experience the pitfalls of restrictor-plate racing, though, as another multi-car incident occurred on Lap 105.

Kevin Harvick lost his grip, resulting in a wreck that also included Keselowski and Earnhardt:

For Earnhardt, his involvement ended his night early and ensured that he would not score his fifth career Cup Series win at Daytona.

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Earnhardt ended his Daytona career as one of the most successful drivers in history across all of NASCAR's major series:

Junior had climbed his way back inside the top 10 despite being part of an earlier accident, and he discussed the disappointment of logging a DNF in his final Daytona race:

Earnhardt also tweeted about his misfortunes afterward:

Saturday's event represented one of his best chances to pick up a win and qualify for the Chase, and there may not be many more realistic opportunities available to him before the playoffs start.

With around 20 laps remaining in the race, chaos ensued, as several lead changes saw unheralded drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez, Stenhouse and Ty Dillon get to the front.

As Dillon protected a lead with eight laps to go, Larson hit the wall hard and went airborne, which caused Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch and Kenseth to suffer damage as well:

Larson had worked his way back into second place after falling back in the field due to a previous accident, but his pursuit of his first Cup Series win at Daytona came to an end.

The carnage necessitated a red flag and ensured the race would be decided with an entertaining sprint to the finish.

Ragan took the lead off the restart, but it was short-lived, as another caution came out when Hamlin and Erik Jones spun out.

On the final restart of the race, Ragan had several opponents to block, and he was unable to get in front of Stenhouse, which allowed the No. 17 car to surge to the lead and never look back.

Stenhouse entered the season with no Cup Series wins to his credit, but he has now taken the checkered flag at a pair of restrictor-plate tracks and established himself as a legitimate championship contender.