Chase Elliott & Ryan Blaney Made A Couple Of Awesome Late Moves To Take The Daytona 500’s First Two Stages

Daytona 500
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

What a first couple of stages we had at Monday’s Daytona 500.

Some people aren’t big fans of the stage format that began in 2017, but to me, it adds a nice rhythm to the action. Whereas before you’re just watching one continuous race and the drivers aren’t getting any breaks, there’s more Cup points at stake, more feathers in the cap for pit crews to win stages, and it more cleanly and gracefully sets the stage for the final laps.

Although Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney can’t claim the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway, they can say they won stages in exceptional fashion. Elliott kicked off the race — after an electrifying intro by The Rock as marshal — by inching past a tight pack of drivers, breaking ahead of William Byron and Kyle Busch just before the final lap and holding on amid a white-knuckle finish.

For a past Cup champion like Elliott, who is a racing prodigy the likes of which have seldom been seen in the sport, this should be a big confidence boost. He didn’t manage a single win in the Cup Series last season, so getting this type of bump toward the beginning of 2024 is huge.

Blaney arguably executed an even more daring maneuver was in the second Daytona 500 stage, though. In an audacious, abrupt move to the inside that would make the late, great Dale Earnhardt proud, Blaney shot his No. 12 car past Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric to surge to the front of the pack.

I mean Blaney was right on Cindric’s tail. Gotta be careful with friendly fire there! Check out this angle of Blaney’s winning charge:

It certainly worked out in the end. Looks like Blaney is picking up right where he left off in 2023 as the reigning Cup Series champ.

Tough breaks for Byron and Busch to be right there at the end of both stages, only to come up just a little shy. Busch wound up having some hard luck in the pits, too, yet managed to recover and not lose any meaningful ground.

If either Busch or Byron wind up in Victory Lane when all is said and done, they’ll have the last laugh. Again, the stage format is cool, y’all. Everyone’s fresher, it’s not such a marathon and occasional drag to watch, and it only amps up the anticipation for the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.

Congrats to Elliott for something of a breakthrough, and to Blaney for continuing strong into the new year.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock