Elliott Rules Stage One Of 62nd Daytona 500

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Elliott Rules Stage One
Chase Elliott (9) battles Matt DiBenedetto during Monday's Daytona 500. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott was chased by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman at the end of stage one of Monday’s 62nd annual Daytona 500.

Elliott claimed the stage one victory over Bowman, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson.

Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon also collected stage points at the first break in the 500-mile event.

“Our NAPA Camaro has been, I think, plenty fast enough,” said Elliott following a round of pit stops. “It’s just a matter of being in the right place … and hoping the right lane moves and goes your way. It’s nice to get a playoff point, but hopefully we can finish out our day just like that at the end of 500 miles.”

A perfect Presidents Day Monday, with sunny conditions and warmer temperatures, greeted the near-capacity crowd that returned to see the conclusion of Sunday’s rain-postponed Daytona 500 that was halted after just 20 laps.

The field was refired at 4:02 p.m., and after running a few pace laps, pit road was opened for teams to top off their fuel tanks and change tires.

Finally, the green flag waved and racing resumed on lap 25. Brad Keselowski and Almirola traded the lead in Fords before the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, led by Elliott and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson, raced their way to the front.

Almirola was the leader at the 100-mile mark, ahead of Ryan Newman’s Ford.

Martin Truex Jr.’s team, along with the other four Toyota drivers in Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin, decided to forego stage points and set their strategy for the entire race by not challenging Elliott, Johnson and Bowman.

On lap 58, William Byron – the winner of Thursday’s second qualifying race – had contact with Ricky Stenhouse on the backstretch. The impact sent Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet flying across the grass at high speed.

Byron’s car then slammed into the inside SAFER Barrier, sustaining heavy front-end damage that put the third-year Cup driver out of the event.

“He hit me in the center left rear and just turned me around,” said Byron, who will finish 40th in the Daytona 500. “It’s unfortunate. I feel like there is no reason to be that aggressive that early in the race.”

On lap 60, many of the contending cars at the front pitted under caution, just five laps short of the end of stage one.

The green flag waved on lap 63 with two laps to go before the end of stage one. Elliott was in the lead ahead of Johnson, and he held command to the green-checkered flag.