NASCAR got what it wanted when it scheduled the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway as the 2020 regular-season finale for the Cup Series. Multiple drivers had chances to clinch one of the three open playoff spots heading into a Saturday night race at one of motorsports’ most unpredictable tracks.
And what a race it was. An unusually clean event became chaotic in the closing laps in typical Daytona style. After a pair of “big ones” took out much of the field including playoff bubble driver Jimmie Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate (and fellow bubble driver) William Byron won an exciting drag race to the finish line over another HMS driver, Chase Elliott.
Byron clinched his spot in the playoffs with his win, and Matt DiBenedetto (12th-place finish Saturday night) finished the regular season six points ahead of Johnson (17th on Saturday) for the 16th and final postseason position.
Sporting News tracked live race updates and lap-by-lap highlights from Saturday’s NASCAR race at Daytona. Below are the highlights.
NASCAR at Daytona race results
|4.||Martin Truex Jr.|
|11.||John Hunter Nemechek|
|32.||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
NASCAR at Daytona highlights from Coke Zero Sugar 400
10:26 p.m. ET: William Byron wins. What a race. Byron beats teammate Chase Elliott to the line after a chaotic last lap. It’s Byron’s first career Cup Series victory, and it comes at the perfect time for him to clinch spot in the NASCAR playoffs. He and Matt DiBenedetto will advance.
10:24 p.m. ET: Green flag. Restart for the green-white-checkered. Clint Bowyer pushes William Byron to the lead.
10:16 p.m. ET: The red flag is lifted, and the yellow comes back out.
Martin Truex Jr.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 30, 2020
10:10 p.m. ET: Another red flag to clean up another mess after the second “big one” of the race. We’ll go to NASCAR overtime whenever the green comes back out. Denny Hamlin is leading with William Byron in second and Clint Bowyer in third.
10:09 p.m. ET: Caution. Another predictable big crash. This one claims Jimmie Johnson along with Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Cole Custer and Matt Kenseth.
10:07 p.m. ET: Green flag. Restart with five laps to go. Joey Logano pushes Denny Hamlin to the lead in the outside lane, but Tyler Reddick stays strong on the inside and takes it back.
10 p.m. ET: Red flag is lifted; yellow comes back out. There will be five laps to go when the green flag is waved. Denny Hamlin is leading.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 30, 2020
9:52 p.m. ET: Red flag with eight laps to go to clean up the damage from the crash.
9:49 p.m. ET: Caution with eight laps to go. Maybe the most predictable yellow of the season thus far. Tyler Reddick tries to make a move on leader Kyle Busch, but he gets into the outside wall while trying to slide in front of the No. 18 and creates a massive crash. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece are involved. All three playoff bubble drivers get through the crash.
9:47 p.m. ET: 10 laps to go. Kyle Busch still leads.
9:45 p.m. ET: Green flag. Restart with 13 laps to go. Kyle Busch keeps the lead with Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch in tow.
9:42 p.m. ET: Jimmie Johnson and William Byron pit under caution with 15 laps to go. Matt DiBenedetto stays out. The Hendrick drivers both wanted fresh tires, and DiBenedetto told his team he wanted to keep his track position.
9:37 p.m. ET: Caution. James Davison is off the pace in Turn 3 with 17 laps to go.
9:35 p.m. ET: With 20 laps to go, Kyle Busch is still leading Denny Hamlin and William Byron. Most of the pack is single-file and hugging the outside wall.
9:30 p.m. ET: Kyle Busch cycles to the lead after green flag pit stops. Still 26 laps to go. Jimmie Johnson (14th) is complaining about his handling after his green-flag pit stop even though he took fuel only.
9:24 p.m. ET: Green flag pit stops with 35 laps to go. The Chevys and Toyotas pit a lap apart, but the Fords stay out for now. (The Fords end up pitting with 29 laps to go.)
9:19 p.m. ET: Kyle Busch takes the lead from teammate Martin Truex Jr. as Jimmie Johnson, who was running third, gets shuffled to the back of the pack on the outside.
9:08 p.m. ET: Green flag. Stage 3 begins with 55 laps to go. Martin Truex Jr. jumps out to the lead.
8:58 p.m. ET: Joey Logano wins Stage 2 to sweep the first two stages. Jimmie Johnson (fifth) and Matt DiBenedetto (seventh) get crucial stage points.
8:42 p.m. ET: Lap 81 arrives, which means the race is past the halfway point and can be considered official. Daniel Suarez is leading after a round of green-flag pit stops.
20 laps to go in Stage 2. Suarez-TDillon-Wallace-KyBusch-Hamlin-Stenhouse-Nemechek-DiBenedetto-LaJoie-Logano. Dunno who can make it.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 30, 2020
8:23 p.m. ET: Green flag. Stage 2 begins on Lap 56. Erik Jones jumps out to the lead in the outside lane with help from Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch.
8:19 p.m. ET: Denny Hamlin is penalized for not lining up properly coming to pit road. He must restart from the back of the pack.
8:12 p.m. ET: Joey Logano wins Stage 1. Jimmie Johnson (fifth) and William Byron (seventh) get some important stage points.
7:52 p.m. ET: Green flag. Restart on Lap 25. William Byron keeps the lead with teammate Alex Bowman in tow.
7:46 p.m. ET: The competition caution arrives after 20 green flag laps. William Byron leads with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman in second.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 29, 2020
7:41 p.m. ET: Kevin Harvick has to bail from the front of the pack. He has some debris on his grill and is running too hot.
7:35 p.m. ET: JJ Yeley loses power, but he gets off the track in time to avoid a caution. He is later ruled out with an engine loss and will finish the race last.
7:30 p.m. ET: Green flag. The Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona is underway. Joey Logano pushes Kevin Harvick to the initial lead before Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski bring the top line even with the bottom line.
7:18 p.m. ET: Engines fired for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.
7:10 p.m. ET: NASCAR announces Clint Bowyer must start the race from the back of the pack because of unapproved prerace adjustments.
5:55 p.m. ET: NASCAR announces Austin Dillon will start the race from the back of the pack after his team failed prerace tech inspection twice.