The 2023 NASCAR season started off with a bang last night, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. winning his first Daytona 500. The underdog driver, racing for a single-car team, far surpassed expectations and raced his way to victory in the longest Daytona 500 ever.
Stenhouse battled hard in overtime to keep former champion Joey Logano at bay as a wreck forced the caution flag to come out, ending the race and leading to Stenhouse Jr. being declared the winner. In the lead-up to the first race of the 2023 season with a new team, Stenhouse received assurances from his team in the form of a note from crew chief Mike Kelly that sat on the number 47 car, according to ESPN:
“I think this whole offseason, Mike just preached how much we all believed in each other. They left me a note in the car that said they believe in me and to go get the job done. Man, this is unbelievable. This was the site of my last win, back in 2017. We’ve worked really hard. We had a couple shots last year to get a win and fell short.”
Following a winless drought that lasted a few years, Stenhouse and his team were out to prove that he was still worthy of a spot in NASCAR. Crew chief Mike Kelly spoke about that and why he left that note for Stenhouse, saying:
“When I woke up today I told myself that I was going to do something that I used to do for Ricky when we had tough days. I just wrote him a note that only he would see. It was on top of the roll bar in front of him, and it just said, ‘We believe.’ That’s been our motto the whole offseason — that we believe. We’re trying to get people to believe in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. again.”
Drivers throughout the field seemed mixed in their opinions of the outcome of the race, where regulation ended under caution only for overtime to do the same thing yet again. Kyle Larsen, who was a part of the final crash that decided the race, noted in a post-race interview that he couldn’t be more thrilled for Stenhouse Jr., saying:
“Happy that Ricky won. I’m super happy. That’s all I could think about after I crashed, waiting to hear that he won. He’s one of my best friends, so I was like yelling into my helmet when I helped push him to the lead there. I was hoping it was going to stay green so it would have been me or him win. I can’t wait to go get changed and go give him a big hug, because he is one of my great buddies.”
Fox News noted that this win is massive for the Stenhouse and the rest of the team, as it places him firmly in the playoff picture and just one more win from nearly guaranteeing a berth to the postseason. The 47 car will be one to keep an eye on, as the team is sure to remain hungry in the coming weeks.
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