Hendrick Cars Tush-Push to Daytona Big One, Finish 1-2

It was Monday night under the lights, and Hendrick Motorsports version of the Tush-Push caused the Big One with 9 laps left, but cleared the field for a 1-2 finish in the Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman had his No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1 all up, in and under the rear of William Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Camaro ZL1, sending Byron into the left rear quarter panel of Brad Keselowski’s Ford on the backstretchl. All hell broke loose but the two Hendrick Cars escaped unscathed. After a red flag, it was Byron and Bowman 1-2 after another crash just before the white flag. The yellow didn’t flash until the pair crossed the start-finish line, so the win belonged to Byron.

It was surprise finish for Chevy, who appeared to be the odd-marque out through qualifying and the Duels. But Saturday and Sunday wash-outs must have worked in their favor, and bow-ties seemed to as fashionable as anything else once the green flag fell late Monday afternoon.

“Obviously, I hate what happened,” Byron said about the Big One. “I just got pushed and got sideways.

“I am just so proud of this team – this whole No. 24 Axalta Chevy team, winning on the 40th anniversary to the day (of Hendrick Motorsports’ first race). Just extremely blessed and thankful for all the opportunities and we just want to keep it going. We have a lot to prove this year and this is a good start, obviously.

“We obviously laid back and tried to save fuel for most of the race. We would get up there at the end of the stages and make some moves. Just thankful for the power under the hood, all of our partners, Chevrolet, and everybody that allows us to do this. I’m just a kid from racing on computers and now winning the Daytona 500. I can’t believe it. I wish my dad was here, he is sick, but this is for him, man. We have been through so much and we sat up in the grandstands together and watched this race. This is so freaking cool.”

“Proud of William and his team – they deserved it there at the end” said Bowman. They did all the right things, and I feel like we did too there at the end. Had to go up and block the top lane and that just killed the middle for a bit. We got the middle back rolling and then they all started crashing.”

Lurking to capitalize from his fourth place finish was Corey LaJoie. “Really stoked to start the year with a top five in our Chili’s Catch a Rita Chevy Camaro,” said LaJoie. “Super happy with our team’s execution to start the season. Our Spire Motorsports team brought a great race car with good speed and executed throughout the course of the day. We gained some track position, led some laps and after getting shuffled back continued to fight and claw our way to the front.”

Two Chevy drivers expected to be at the sharp end of the finish instead crossed the line in 11th and 14th.

“The first stage went well and then the next two stages just got caught in the wrong lanes at pivotal points and lost track position,” said 11th place Kyle Larson. “So, yeah, kind of cost us a good shot to win there at the end, but was able to miss that big wreck mostly.  Got a left, front flat from sliding them and had to pit, but thankfully we missed the last one and awesome to have a Hendrick Chevrolet win that race and cool to see William win.”

“I made a mistake and I saw Kyle was coming really hard on the top and I tried to pick that lane up and he gave me a big shove down the short shoot, and I thought I could sneak back to the middle but the 20 was wanting to be there too,” said 14th Chase Elliott. “Just made a mistake there on the last lap and not sure I would have got to the front row, but certainly would have been a better finish for us. I hate that because we had a solid day otherwise. Happy for William to kick off the 40th year of Hendrick Motorsports with the win.”

Ross Chastain’s Busch Light Camaro was a contender all day, but was in the last lap crash. Was he being too aggressive? “When you crash, I think so,” laughed Chastain. “It was really awesome for us to control some of the cycles, the green flag pit cycles, and kicked their butts. So that was really cool and then to have a bunch of Chevys left there at the end there made me feel good. It was cool Alex (Bowman) pushed me there at the end and I felt like there was minimal chance that a Chevy wasn’t going to win and one of them got it done. But yeah, too aggressive is when I don’t finish.

“To learn the fuel saving game and really get aggressive and match these guys, so that we can pit when we need to…..I have burned up too much fuel in the past couple of races and to put ourselves in position on the final pit stop to come out with the lead, cover the other OEM when they caught up to us, and just work with some legends of the sport, and have control over the race there at the end. I know the top is the logical thing and it makes sense when the third lane is split up. It just pulls us back and we still had a shot though. I really do feel content. It’s weird to say it, but we did everything right.”

The triumph marked Hendrick Motorsports’ return to victory lane in the Daytona 500 for the first time in nine years, with Bryon’s win taking the organization to a record-tying nine victories in the crown jewel event. Making the triumph even more special, the win came exactly 40 years since Hendrick Motorsports’ first-ever start in NASCAR’s top division to mark a storybook beginning to the organization’s anniversary season.

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season continues at Atlanta Motor Speedway the Ambetter Health 400 on Sunday, February 25, at 3 P.M. ET. Live coverage can be found on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

story by Tim Hailey with photo and quotes courtesy of Chevrolet

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