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Stat Sheet: Will There Ever Be a Normal Daytona 500 Finish?

Every year, the Daytona 500 rolls around to start the NASCAR Cup Series season, and every year it feels like a massive letdown.

Each race begins to live up to the hype, and the Daytona 460 is one of the most thrilling races on the calendar. But time and time again, it’s the final 20 laps and change that wreak havoc on the field and turn the battle for the Harley J. Earl Trophy into a game of drunken Russian roulette.

Monday’s (Feb. 19) Daytona 500 finish was far from the most egregious or controversial in the last decade, but it became yet another statistic in a sad trend of caution flags deciding the winner instead of checkered flags. 

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To find a Daytona 500 that ended at lap 200, ended under green and didn’t have a last-lap crash (regardless of whether or not it brought out a yellow), you’d have to go all the way back to 2017 — seven years ago.

The 500 in its current state like a game of Jenga; the first 180 laps are the process of building the tower. But as the aggression, blocks and desperation moves pick up, something has to give. The Big One occurs, and the tower collapses like a house of cards. And once the tower has collapsed, the desperate attempts to rebuild it will only lead to it collapsing again.

Big wrecks and battles of attrition have been the expectations at both Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway for a good 30-plus years, but the Daytona 500’s accident-prone finishes border on ridiculous in the last two decades.

YearLapsOvertime(s)Race Ended UnderOther Notes
2024200Caution
2023212Double overtimeCaution
2022201OvertimeGreenLast-lap crash, no caution
2021200Caution
2020209Double overtimeCaution
2019207OvertimeGreen
2018207OvertimeGreenLast-lap crash, no caution
2017200GreenFinal green-flag run of 47 laps
2016200GreenFinal green-flag run of 12 laps
2015203OvertimeCaution
2014200Caution
2013200GreenLast-lap crash, no caution (final green-flag run of 6 laps)
2012202OvertimeGreen
2011208Double overtimeGreen
2010208Double overtimeGreen
2009152CautionRain-shortened
2008200GreenFinal green-flag run of 3 laps
2007202OvertimeGreenLast-lap crash, no caution
2006203OvertimeGreen
2005203OvertimeGreen

Twelve of the 20 Daytona 500s in the overtime era went longer than 200 laps (60%). The 2009 race was rain shortened, which means that just seven of the last 20 Daytona 500s have ended at the magic mark of 500 laps and 200 miles.

Of the seven that ended at lap 200, three of them (2014, 2021 and 2024) ended under caution. That means, in the last 20 years of Daytona 500 history, only three races have ended at lap 200 without a crash on the last lap: 2008, 2016 and 2017.

Three!

With all that said, the Daytona 500 at least finished under green in the early era of overtime. From 2005 to 2013, every race ended under green, with the exception of the aforementioned 152-lap 2009 edition. That time period featured six races that went to overtime, and all of them were at least able to declare a winner by waving the checkered flag.

Since the mid-2010s, there’s been another shift: eight of the last 11 Daytona 500s have ended with a last-lap crash (regardless of whether they brought out a caution), while six of the last 11 have ended under caution. Notably, all but one of the last five races has ended under yellow.

2020 ended with a quick yellow for Ryan Newman‘s horrific crash on the final lap. 2021 ended under yellow once again for another horrific crash between Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and others in turn 3. Last year’s 500 ended under caution after a big wreck in turn 2, while this year’s 500 ended under caution after a wreck in the trioval as the leaders took the white flag.

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The only exception of the last five years was 2022, when the field waited until the checkered flag was waving to lose control in the trioval.

The Daytona 400-mile race hasn’t fared much better in the same timespan. Since 2005, the 400-miler has been rain-shortened twice, finished at lap 160 seven times and gone to overtime on 11 occasions. There was also a famous stretch from 2007 to 2016 where every single race had a crash on the final lap sans the 2014 rain shortened edition. In the cases of 2011 and 2013, those races featured two separate wrecks on the final lap.

Of course, it’s pie in the sky to have a clean finish every single February at Daytona. But when wrecks are all that happen in the closing laps, is it too much to ask for one clean race to end at lap 200?

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Bill B

Actually, given the stats, you’d have to say Monday’s finish WAS a normal finish at Daytona.
It’s not the normal we’d like it to be, but it is what it is. (a crapshoot).

Christopher

One way to minimize end of race crashes at Daytona and Talladega is to make all restarts single file with 20 laps or fewer remaining.

Last edited 1 month ago by Christopher
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