DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Justin Haley, driving for Spire Motorsports, was the upset winner of Sunday’s rain-delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400 after NASCAR was forced to call the race with 33 laps remaining due to recurring lightning and rain.
Ryan Newman led Ford with a fifth-place finish as four Mustang drivers ended up in the top 10, including Corey LaJoie in sixth, Aric Almirola seventh and Matt TIfft ninth.
The race was ultimately decided as the cars circled Daytona International Speedway under caution. After NASCAR indicated the restart was one lap away, leader Kurt Busch came down pit road. That moved Haley into the lead and just before the restart a lightning strike occurred, which forced NASCAR to throw the red flag. Despite waiting for the weather to clear, it never did and Haley was credited with his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in just his third start.
The unpredictable finish seemed appropriate on a weekend where Mother Nature was the dominant force.
Joey Logano started on the pole after lightning forced cancellation of Cup qualifying on Friday, and the Ford contingent showed strength in Stage 1. After 32 laps Ford held down the top nine spots and when Logano passed Kevin Harvick to win the stage, Ford had led all but three of the first 50 laps.
Things turned, however, in Stage 2 as four cautions resulted in major damage to many of the Ford contenders, including Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, David Ragan and Joey Logano. The bad luck continued into the final stage and came to a climax when Clint Bowyer was the process of passing Austin Dillon for the lead. Dillon, however, came down and made contact with Bowyer, which ignited a 17-car accident that eliminated a number of contenders.
Shortly thereafter, the lightning and rain came with Haley being the main beneficiary.
MENCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st - Justin Haley
2nd -- William Byron
3rd -- Jimmie Johnson
4th -- Ty Dillon
5th -- Ryan Newman
6th -- Corey LaJoie
7th -- Aric Almirola
8th -- Matt DiBenedetto
9th -- Matt Tifft
10th -- Kurt Busch
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
13th -- Michael McDowell
16th -- Paul Menard
24th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25th -- Joey Logano
29th -- Kevin Harvick
34th -- Clint Bowyer
36th -- Ryan Blaney
38th -- David Ragan
39th -- Brad Keselowski
40th -- Daniel Suarez
POST RACE QUOTES
DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the replay. I don’t really know what happened, I just know a few cars wrecked ahead of me. I was trying to slow down and I bumped the 22 and someone bumped me from behind and we were starting to get it back straight and somebody spun me out and the track bar broke. My car was actually fine. I thought we were going to continue, but unfortunately the track bar broke and it’s something we can’t fix.”
HOW DID THE FORDS WORK TOGETHER? “We did a good job in the first stage. In the second stage I felt if all of us teammates could get put together we were gonna be fine, but unfortunately we got wrecked before that. It’s a shame because I saw Keselowski in the care center and I know the 4 and the 10 got some damage. There are some good cars out of the race right now.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Mustang
WHAT HAPPENED? “I haven’t seen. I know I was going straight one moment and the next moment I wasn’t. It’s unfortunate. We were all two and three-wide racing and just got tagged from the back. I’m not sure exactly. I know we got to three-wide at the top of three and it looks like Kevin gave me a real straight push. I don’t know. It just took off on me. The Fords were working really hard to run together and Kevin and Joey and Blaney and myself, I thought we were doing really good at it, but for whatever reason the car just instantly turned there. It’s a bummer for everybody, but we’ll move on and hopefully go to the next one and be alright.”
HOW DO YOU THINK THE FORDS WORKED TOGETHER? “We just don’t right now have the speed that I think the Toyotas and Chevys do on the plate tracks. We’ve been on the other side of that too, where we were faster than them and able to dominate these races. It’s just part of the cycle.”
IT’S GOOD TO WORK TOGETHER, BUT IF IT GOES BAD A LOT OF YOU CAN GET DAMAGED LIKE THIS. “Yeah, there is definitely some truth to that, but we have to work together if we’re gonna keep up with those other guys. They can just run like a tenth or two faster than we can. Our only shot, really, is to be a band of brothers and I thought the Ford guys did a pretty good job of trying to do that it just didn’t work out.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE WHEN THE FORDS ARE IN TRAFFIC VERSUS AT THE FRONT? “I’m not sure what we’re missing. I don’t know.”
DID YOU FEEL IT WAS COUREOUS OUT THERE? “I thought it was really good racing from what I could tell. I can’t say I saw it all, but that was really good racing.”
DAVID RAGAN, No. 38 MDS Transport Ford Mustang
“I couldn’t tell what happened. I knew we were in the middle and it was a really big accordion effect. I would get a really big run. The 18 would push me, I would push the 2, we would surge for half a lap or a lpa nd then the bottom and the top would surge and we would fall back a little bit back and forth, so I was hoping we could get back in that top lane with a few of the other Fords, where I felt like we could get rolling, but never saw that hole and the next thing I know the 2 is in the wall and the 4 came down and clipped us a little bit.”
HOW DID THE FORDS WORK TOGETHER? “It’s a double-edged sword. I feel like our Ford Mustangs were all fast and when we can work together it elevates the whole team and that’s a good thing, but when someone makes a mistake or someone hits the wall or someone wrecks you take out three or four cars, so that sucks but hopefully there’s another Mustang that can take the checkered flag and see what happens. That’s just a product of Daytona and Talladega. I used to take it personal and get all mad and frustrated, but it is what it is. I’ve wrecked in the front. I’ve wrecked in the back. When you’re running in big packs like that, big wrecks happen.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang
WHAT HAPPENED FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? “I guess he didn’t want me to pass him. I don’t know. I got under him and he blocked, and we got together, I got off of him – moved down and got off of him – and here he comes back down even more and just finally wrecked us all. That’s just part of racing like this.”
NO CHOICE BUT TO STAY IN THE GAS THERE? “What do you do? That was terrible. That wasn’t even close. When we got together and I pulled off of him to give him some room and then he just never quit coming down and wrecked us all. It’s just part of the racing. You want to blame him. If it would have been anybody else there, they would have probably done the same thing. We had a fast hot-rod, had a good run and was going for the lead and it’s just the nature of this kind of racing. It sucks. You want to be pissed off, frustrated and blame somebody, but at the end of the day it’s just part of racing.”
HOW DO YOU THINK THE FORDS RACED TOGETHER? “At the end of the day your allies are the Fords. You try to find and try to use them, but a couple times I was in a situation where I couldn’t get up there. I was in the faster line on the bottom and it was two Toyotas, two Chevys and my Ford in there. I’m looking out and there are three Fords in a line out there, so it’s just one of those things.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 BodyArmor Ford Mustang
“I haven’t seen a replay, but apparently it was a case of someone not being cleared at all, so that part is frustrating. It’s one thing if you’re kind of pushing each other and someone gets turned, something like that, but when you just chop somebody like that, from what I hear, it’s frustrating, especially since we were rows back. In both Daytona races this year we’ve been four rows back in the deal and just get absolutely destroyed. There was nowhere to go and none of our doing, so that’s the way it goes.”
HOW DID EVERYONE WORK TOGETHER IN THE FORD CAMP AND WAS IT CHALLENGING? “It’s challenging. I mean, you see it out there all day with manufacturers working together and snookering each other left and right. That’s kind of how it is nowadays, but I thought we worked together fairly decent It stunk the 2 and the 4 getting tore up there. That took a couple of us out, but that’s just the way it is.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang
“I thought things were gonna go a little better today than they ended up. We were able to get a stage win, which was great for our Mustang, but everything was going good until it didn’t.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE ACCIDENT WHERE YOU GOT DAMAGE? “I see what’s happening below me and I’m just on the gas trying to get through it. I was so close. Nowhere else to go and at that point you just go up and you really don’t even lift. You see it happening and you’re just trying to get through it as quick as possible. I was hoping to get through, but just got tagged in the left-rear. It’s part of the game here at the superspeedways. You’re running up towards the front and it’s still not safe. It’s just part of superspeedway racing, but I think the positives are we had a fast car. We had maybe the fastest car if we could just get in line and once we got the lead I felt like we could really maintain and control the race. That’s a positive. That’s a good thing. I thought the Fords worked together really well while we were all still out there, and that’s the positive. A stage win, that’s good.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang
“It was a crazy day. I think every time you come down here to Daytona you hope that you’ve got a shot to win and at certain points throughout the race I thought we would, and then at certain points throughout the race I thought we were in big trouble. To get out of here with a top 10 is a good day and I think points-wise we stayed steady. I think we maybe moved up a spot to 10th in points and we built a little bit more of a gap back to 16th, so that’s important leaving here.” ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN HERE, CAN’T IT? “Yeah, anything is possible when you come here. Just in general anything can happen. Racing is a crazy sport and you never know what to expect.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang
“We were trying to work our way back to the lead and was in the top 10, so we were in decent position, but obviously when the wreck starts on the front row it’s all about luck after that and we weren’t able to get our Fifth Third Ford through that wreck as good as we wanted. I just spent a lot of time on pit road, go a couple laps down trying to fix it, so, all in all, it was a good first two stages when we were strong and felt good, but it just didn’t work out.” YOU WENT THROUGHT THE GRASS AND STILL CAME BACK. “Yeah, luckily we went through the grass backwards, so that was huge.”
COREY LAJOIE, No. 32 Shine Armor Ford Mustang
“Sixth for us, no matter what the circumstance, is a good day. If you told me I could take a sixth-place finish before we even started I would have taken it to the bank and ran with it. That’s cool for Justin. That’s obviously not how he wanted to win his first race, but at the end of the day there’s no asterisk in the record book and there’s no asterisk in the record book for finishing sixth, either. We had a good Shine Armor car. Our tactic was just to ride and try to miss those big ones and that’s what we did. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have pitted and we probably could have ended up second, but coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Long John Silver’s Ford Mustang
“It’s horrible if we can’t finish this. We have a really fast Ford Mustang, got very minimal damage there. We would be restarting in the top 10 with not a lot of great cars, there are some good cars and we’ve got four pretty fast Ford Mustangs up there that I think can contend for this win, so I would like to get going back again. We didn’t come here to run 10th today. Unfortunately, we had a flat tire in that last accident and had to pit early, so we’re starting a little bit further back, but we’ve got 30 laps to get to the front and I’d like to have a shot at doing it.”
MATT TIFFT, No. 36 Ron Jon Surf Shop Ford Mustang
“Honestly, for us it doesn’t matter how we get it a top 10 is huge for our team and for Front Row Motorsports any top 10 is awesome. It’s definitely one we’ll celebrate here and a ninth-place finish for our team is awesome. We put ourselves in spots through the race to make sure we were not getting caught up in the big ones and it worked out for us to get a good finish out of it. I probably would have liked to have gotten back going because I felt like we were one of the cars that didn’t have damage, but our Ron Jon Surf Shops Ford Mustang was there at the end inside the top 10, so that’s awesome.”