Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet, lifts the Harley J. Earl trophy in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway
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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Wins 2023 Daytona 500 Following Late-Race Wreck

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series is already off to a hot start thanks to the longest Daytona 500 the sport has every seen. Daytona International Speedway was primed and ready for an epic kick-off to the season as NASCAR drivers heard from nine NASCAR legends at the start of the race. Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano gave the iconic command for participants to "start their engines," signaling the start of the 65th running of the Daytona Beach race.

If you thought that was the highlight of the race, you must have turned off your TV after the second stage.

Stenhouse Jr. Survives and Secures Daytona 500 Win

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his Kroger-sponsored No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet took home the Daytona 500 win after a massive pile-up on Turn 3. Stenhouse had just taken the lead when Austin Dillon spun out, causing the big crash. The wreck was caused by a bad bump draft from William Byron to Dillon, leading both drivers to spin in front of traffic. Thirteen drivers were involved in the wreck, including Dillon, Byron, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson, Jimmie Johnson, Justin Haley, Ross Chastain, Riley Herbst, Todd Gilliland, and Zane Smith. It wouldn't be a memorable day down in Daytona Beach, Fla., without half the field getting caught up in the "Big One."

At the start of first overtime, which happened after Daniel Suarez spun out during the final laps, Stenhouse knew he had to make a move or else he'd have a front row seat to someone else's victory lap. Especially after only qualifying for the 31st starting position, Stenhouse wasn't going to let anyone get in the way of his move to full-time standings leader. He made the move, survived the ensuing chaos caused by the "Big One" (which brought out the second overtime), and thanks to the freezing of the field after Kyle Larson's last-lap wreck, won his first-ever Daytona 500.

"When (Kyle Busch) went to the bottom there I was able to push (Logano) and (Larson)," Stenhouse said. "We had a huge run. I was hoping we were going to get to the white (flag) there, and we didn't, so I knew I was going to take the top."

"I was hoping (Logano) was going to follow, and he did. He was able to push us out. I went to the bottom, (Busch) and (Logano) got a huge run. Larson split me in the middle, but another fellow dirt racer with Bell gave me a good shot down the little short chute into (Turn) 1, and we were out front when the caution came out."

"We were out of fuel so the fuel light was going crazy. I hope y'all had fun. That was a heck of a race."

Following the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series races earlier in the week, it's clear these drivers are picking up where they left off after last year's playoffs. With the Geico 500 only two months away at the Talladega Superspeedway, it's clear that every team from crew chief to spotter, from Ford to Toyota will be thinking about their final laps as they drift off to sleep for the next few weeks.

But then again, we wouldn't expect anything else from another day at the Mecca of Motorsports.

MORE: The "Big One" Strikes at Daytona 500 During Intense Overtime Lap