William Byron wins Daytona 500 under caution after crash at the white flag

William Byron won the Daytona 500 under caution after Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric crashed as the white flag flew.

Byron got past Chastain with less than three laps to go and was in front as the wreck happened. Though the crash started before the final lap officially began, the caution came out after Byron had started his final lap.

Chastain was making a move on the high side as Cindric was in second ahead of Corey LaJoie when their contact happened. Cindric appeared to get loose and move up the track as Chastain moved down to make a pass for the lead.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 19: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
William Byron celebrates after winning the Daytona 500 on Monday. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The field that Byron beat to the finish line was thinned immensely because of a 22-car crash with less than nine laps to go. It started when Byron tagged Brad Keselowski as both drivers were in the top five. The crash took out a bunch of contenders for the win behind race leader Chastain.

The crash started as Byron's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman was pushing him to the front. Byron got loose off Bowman's bumper and got into the left rear of Keselowski's car. That sent Keselowski into Joey Logano and collected a bunch of drivers including Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., 2023 Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney and others.

Just look at how close Keselowski came to hitting the back of Chastain's car.

Bowman went on to finish second behind Byron. Christopher Bell was unofficially scored in third ahead of LaJoie and Bubba Wallace.

Byron is the sixth Daytona 500 winner for Hendrick Motorsports

Byron, 26, joined Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip and Geoffrey Bodine as Daytona 500 winners for Hendrick Motorsports on Monday. His win is the first for the storied team since Junior won his second Daytona 500 in rain-delayed fashion in 2014.

Monday’s race was postponed as well. It began over 24 hours after it was originally scheduled to start because of persistent rain at Daytona International Speedway.

Byron’s victory also ties Hendrick with Petty Enterprises as the team with the most Daytona 500 victories. Petty Enterprises won nine Daytona 500s from 1959-1981. Hendrick now has nine after Bodine became the team’s first Daytona 500 winner in 1986.

The victory locks Byron into the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as he chases his first Cup Series title. Byron was the winningest driver in the Cup Series a season ago as he won six races and scored 15 top fives across 36 races. He ultimately finished third in the Cup Series points standings after he was bested by both Blaney and teammate Kyle Larson in the season finale.

Byron should be one of the drivers to beat for the Cup Series title once again this season.

Why Byron won under caution

Had the caution come out before Byron had crossed the start/finish line, NASCAR would have continued the race beyond the scheduled 200 laps for a two-lap restart. However, since Byron had already started the 200th lap of the race, NASCAR rules say the race is over when a caution is called on the final lap.

If you were a bit confused about how Byron won, however, you're not alone. Fox didn't show a clear replay at the time the caution came out. Bowman had a run on Byron because of the crash and passed him as NASCAR race control called the caution. There's no reason to believe that Bowman was ahead of Byron at the time of the caution and that NASCAR officials made the wrong call.

But a clear shot of where the field was on the track at the time of the caution would have gone a long way to informing viewers of how close the finish actually was.

Fox's booth appeared to be confused about the finish as well. The final moments of the race broadcast call were very flat, as Mike Joy, Kevin Harvick — making his debut as a full-time analyst — and Clint Bowyer were immediately unsure of who won the race. Having Harvick and Bowyer walk through a frame-by-frame analysis of the moment of caution would have been an educational moment for viewers.

Instead, if you were watching on television, you had no idea how close the finish actually was. Fox signed off minutes after the race was conclusion to get to an episode of "America's Most Wanted." Fox Sports 1 didn't have any post-race coverage and was instead showing taped poker.

It took nearly an hour for NASCAR to post a picture of the winning margin at the moment of caution to social media.

Early crash ruins multiple drivers' chances to win

The majority of the Daytona 500 was incident-free. There were no crashes in between the two wrecks in the final 10 laps of the race and a crash that happened on the fifth lap of the race.

Seven drivers were involved in the early wreck, including seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. He was behind the crash before he was collected in it as he ran into Carson Hocevar's spinning car.

Johnson spent the rest of the race riding around multiple laps down as he runs a part-time schedule in NASCAR for the second straight season. Monday, Johnson became the first NASCAR Hall of Famer to race in the Daytona 500 as a member of the Hall. He was inducted earlier this year along with longtime crew chief Chad Knaus. Johnson and Knaus won all seven of their championships together.

Unofficial results

1. William Byron

2. Alex Bowman

3. Christopher Bell

4. Corey LaJoie

5. Bubba Wallace

6. AJ Allmendinger

7. John Hunter Nemechek

8. Erik Jones

9. Noah Gragson

10. Chase Briscoe

11. Kyle Larson

12. Kyle Busch

13. Zane Smith

14. Chase Elliott

15. Martin Truex Jr.

16. Daniel Hemric

17. Ty Gibbs

18. Chris Buescher

19. Denny Hamlin

20. David Ragan

21. Ross Chastain

22. Austin Cindric

23. Ryan Preece

24. Riley Herbst

25. Josh Berry

26. Justin Haley

27. Anthony Alfredo

28. Jimmie Johnson

29. Tyler Reddick

30. Ryan Blaney

31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

32. Joey Logano

33. Brad Keselowski

34. Daniel Suarez

35. Todd Gilliland

36. Michael McDowell

37. Austin Dillon

38. Kaz Grala

39. Harrison Burton

40. Carson Hocevar