William Byron Wins 2024 Daytona 500


DAYTONA BEACH - Numerous drivers cycled in and out of the lead in Monday’s Daytona 500, but it was ultimately William Byron who took the top spot when it mattered most. He bested teammate Alex Bowman and rival Christopher Bell after several of the race’s top contenders were taken out in crashes.

Byron is the fourth straight Daytona 500 winner who’d never won the race before, following Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. before him. He notched Hendrick Motorsports’ first Daytona 500 victory since 2014, when they had an entirely different driver lineup than their present one. He also brought the #24 to victory lane in the Daytona 500 for the first time since 2005, when Jeff Gordon won his third and final Harley J. Earl trophy.

Byron crosses the line alongside teammate Alex Bowman under caution.
Byron crosses the line alongside teammate Alex Bowman under caution.

Crashes Before the Finish

The ending of the race was subject to some controversy, as it ultimately came down to an officiating call instead of the usual drag race to the line. Byron had just crossed the start-finish lap to begin the final lap when the caution flag waved; in NASCAR, a caution on the last lap freezes the running order and ends the race. A crash triggered by contact between Cindric and Corey LaJoie brought out the caution, and triggered the whole of Daytona International Speedway holding its breath. The call came in moments later, declaring Byron the winner.

Minutes prior to the race’s conclusion a massive multi-car wreck was triggered by contact between Byron and Brad Keselowski, sending the latter up the track to take out several of the top cars. Joey Logano was among those collected, after leading a massive portion of the race leading up to it. Later, Alex Bowman fessed up to contributing to the crash by pushing Byron forward into Keselowski.

“Speedway racing again,” Logano said after exiting his totaled race car. “It’s a lot of fun until this happens. It was pretty interesting with a lot of pushing and shoving there at the end. Our car was able to take it. Our Mustang was so fast. It could lead a line really well. I kind of thought I had the cars I wanted around me. I had at least one I wanted around me, but just couldn’t make it work.”

A Storybook Win

For the victor Byron, his humble and unorthodox beginnings contributed to the emotions of being atop the motorsports world. “I’m just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500,” said Byron, referencing his developmental background in simulated racing. “I can’t believe it. I wish my dad was here. He’s sick, but this is for him, man. We’ve been through so much, and we sat up in the grandstands together and watched the race. This is so freaking cool.”

The win was particularly meaningful for Hendrick Motorsports, who was celebrating their 40th anniversary as a race team on the day of Byron's victory. The race wasn't even supposed to have been run on Monday, but was postponed from its original Sunday date by inclement weather throughout the weekend. “I’m telling you, you couldn’t write the script any better,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in victory lane. “When we thought about coming down here the first time, we didn’t think we should be here, felt so out of place."

Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon said after the race that he was proud to see Byron, driver of Gordon's former #24, forge his own legacy. "I try not to be biased but William's making it hard on me," Gordon said to laughter. "The 24's always gonna be very very special to me, but what I love the most is seeing him make it his number."

Jimmie Johnson exits his car after Thursday's Bluegreen Vacations Duels.
Jimmie Johnson exits his car after Thursday's Bluegreen Vacations Duels.

Jimmie Johnson's Last Daytona 500?

The race had been mostly caution-free leading up to the final segment, but it did have one multi-car crash in the first minutes after the green flag. Contact by Keselowski into the car of John Hunter Nemechek caused race-ending damage for Harrison Burton, Carson Hocevar, and Kaz Grala. Also affected were Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson, the latter of whom was returning to the Daytona 500 post-retirement as part of a partial return to NASCAR competition. Johnson confirmed after the race that he didn't intend on his final Daytona 500 ending on such a sour note.

"I hope it's not [my last one]," Johnson said in a post-race interview on pit road. "It's not, in my mind. We'll see what opportunities next year brings." Johnson only narrowly qualified for the Daytona 500 field, having beaten out competitor J.J. Yeley for one of two final entry spots in Thursday's Bluegreen Vacations Duels. Johnson won the Daytona 500 in 2006 and later again in 2013.

Grand marshal Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson before the race.
Grand marshal Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson before the race.

Final Finishing Order

  1. William Byron - #24 Axalta Chevrolet
  2. Alex Bowman - #48 Ally Chevrolet
  3. Christopher Bell - #20 DeWalt Toyota
  4. Corey LaJoie - #7 Chili's Chevrolet
  5. Bubba Wallace - #23 McDonald's Toyota
  6. A.J. Allmendinger - #16 Celsius Chevrolet
  7. John Hunter Nemechek - #42 Dollar Tree Toyota
  8. Erik Jones - #43 AdventHealth Toyota
  9. Noah Gragson - #10 Black Rifle Coffee Ford
  10. Chase Briscoe - #14 Mahindra Tractors Ford
  11. Kyle Larson - #5 Chevrolet
  12. Kyle Busch - #8 Zone Chevrolet
  13. Zane Smith - #71 WeatherTech Chevrolet
  14. Chase Elliott - #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
  15. Martin Truex Jr. - #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota
  16. Daniel Hemric - #31 Cirkul Chevrolet
  17. Ty Gibbs - #54 Monster Energy Toyota
  18. Chris Buescher - #17 Fastenal Ford
  19. Denny Hamlin - #11 FedEx Toyota
  20. David Ragan - #60 Ford
  21. Ross Chastain - #1 Busch Light Chevrolet
  22. Austin Cindric - #2 Discount Tire Ford
  23. Ryan Preece - #41 Ford
  24. Riley Herbst - #15 Monster Energy Ford
  25. Josh Berry - #4 SunnyD Ford
  26. Justin Haley - #51 TreeTop Apple Juice Ford
  27. Anthony Alfredo - #62 Death Wish Coffee Chevrolet
  28. Jimmie Johnson - #84 Carvana Toyota
  29. Tyler Reddick - #45 Nasty Beast
  30. Ryan Blaney - #12 Menards / PEAK Ford
  31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - #47 Kroger Chevrolet
  32. Joey Logano - #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford
  33. Brad Keselowski - #6 Castrol Edge Ford
  34. Daniel Suárez - #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet
  35. Todd Gilliland - #38 Gener8tor Ford
  36. Michael McDowell - #34 Love's Travel Stops Ford
  37. Austin Dillon - #3 Bass Pro Shops
  38. Kaz Grala - #36 Ruedebusch Ford
  39. Harrison Burton - #21 Motorcraft / DEX Imaging Ford
  40. Carson Hocevar - #77 Gainbridge Chevrolet