CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott had his best DAYTONA 500 finish ever in the early hours of Monday morning after an eventful final lap in "The Great American Race."
The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion finished second in the first race of the 2021 season after he escaped a last-lap accident. The leaders in the final lap were battling for the top spot when the incident occurred. At the time of the caution, Elliott was less than a car length behind Michael McDowell, who won the race.
Kyle Larson placed 10th and earned his third top-10 finish in a row at the DAYTONA 500. William Byron finished 26th after an accident early in the race forced him to pit for extensive repairs. Alex Bowman was caught up in the first incident of the night and headed to the garage after 15 laps. He finished 35th.
A weather delay took hold just 15 laps into the race when heavy rain and lightning descended on Daytona Beach, Florida. That pushed the race back nearly six hours, forcing it to restart at 9 p.m. ET. Three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers crossed the finish line after midnight.
Take a look below to see how the organization's drivers performed in the DAYTONA 500.
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 NATIONSGUARD CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Larson began the race 13th behind teammate Chase Elliott. He was shuffled back to 16th within the first lap but moved up to 10th when the first caution fell.
- Larson worked his way to sixth by Lap 13. One lap later, he was in the same position when a massive accident caused the second yellow flag to drop. The caution became a red flag minutes later when lightning was spotted in the area.
- The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was in third place when racing resumed late Sunday night. Larson dropped to fifth by Lap 31 and was in ninth two laps later.
- When the third caution was waved on Lap 38, Larson was 12th. He restarted 11th and quickly jumped to eighth and was in sixth by Lap 45. Larson worked his way to fourth place before the end of Stage 1, earning valuable stage points.
- The 28-year-old driver slipped to seventh 11 laps into the second stage. By Lap 105 he was back in the top five in fifth place. A round of pitstops and a surge on Larson’s part allowed him to move to second with 23 laps left in Stage 2.
- He pitted one lap later and returned to the track in first place. However, Larson was shuffled back with less than 20 laps left in Stage 2 and was tapped into the wall. He pitted for a flat rear tire and came out 17th.
- Larson was back in the top 10 by Lap 120 and finished Stage 2 eighth. However, he was hit with a safety violation and sent to the rear.
- Larson was 15th when the third stage started. He moved to 12th with 60 laps left and remained in that position until he pitted.
- With 25 laps to go, Larson jumped to 12th. He and was in eighth place with less than 10 laps to go and was making a run up the leaderboard when there was an accident at the front of the pack in the final lap. Larson was tapped by another car and hit the wall, but kept control of his Chevrolet and crossed the finish line 10th.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Elliott started 12th in “The Great American Race” and worked his way to fifth within the first lap. He slipped down to 11th when the first caution dropped.
- Elliott broke into the top 10 quickly and was riding in fifth place when the second caution fell on Lap 14. He headed down pit road after the flag became red due to weather.
- The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion had to wait several hours but took the track in first place Sunday night under the lights. Elliott pitted earlier, which allowed him to move up in the order. He fell to third by lap 30 and was riding in 11th place by Lap 36 when another caution was signaled.
- Elliott was 12th on the restart and slipped to 13th 45 laps into the race. He finished Stage 1 in 14th after he was unable to surpass traffic by using the inside lane.
- Elliott jumped to sixth at the start of Stage 2 and slipped in and out of the top 10 over the next 10 laps. With 25 laps to go in Stage 2, Elliott moved up to sixth place. Two laps later, he followed teammate Kyle Larson to the front of the field and was riding in third place until he pitted one lap later. Topping off on just fuel, Elliott returned to the track second.
- The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet was shuffled back after going three wide and was 10th when the fourth caution dropped. When racing resumed, Elliott moved up to seventh with 12 laps left in Stage 2.
- He jumped to fourth place five laps later and finished the stage in that spot. Elliott restarted seventh and settled in eighth place with 60 laps left in the race. He jumped to fourth on Lap 170 after a cycle of pit stops, but then he took his No. 9 Chevrolet down pit road one lap later.
- Elliott was 13th when he returned to the track. He moved up to eighth again with 25 laps left in the race and edged to sixth in the final 10 laps. Elliott avoided the accident in the final lap and finished “The Great American Race” in second place.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Byron started on the front row with teammate Alex Bowman but had to drop to the rear of the field due to switching to a backup car. He was up to 24th after one circuit around the superspeedway and edged to 21st by the first caution drop.
- Byron was in 25th for the restart after he topped off on fuel. He was caught up in the first big accident of the race on Lap 14 and had to be pulled from the grass.
- The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE headed to pit road and remained there after lightning was spotted in the area. He returned to the track two laps down and was 27th after waiting for the storms to pass. Byron had to pit again on the 36th lap to adjust his bumper.
- He returned to the track in 28th and seven laps down and remained in that position until the end of Stage 1.
- Byron started Stage 2 in 27th and remained in that position for nearly 30 laps. He was down eight laps and dropped to 28th halfway through the second stage.
- With 25 laps left, Byron was back in 27th and moved up one spot to 26th by the end of the stage. The 23-year-old driver kept the No. 26 position throughout the third stage and ended the DAYTONA 500 in that spot.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 48 ALLY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Bowman rolled off the grid in the pole position at the DAYTONA 500 for the second time in his Cup Series career. He led the first lap but dropped to fifth a few laps later when the first yellow flag waved.
- Bowman slipped to sixth after the restart but quickly moved up to fourth within the lap. He was in third place when another driver forced him into the wall, causing the second caution. Minutes later, a red flag was waved from lightning and rain in the area.
- Unfortunately, the hit was severe enough to knock Bowman and his No. 48 Chevrolet out of the race. He placed 35th.