The enthusiasm around NASCAR’s comeback could be felt throughout the whole business as the Daytona 500 got underway on Sunday evening. The most fantastic driver of all time, Jimmie Johnson, is getting ready for his final journey. Another living icon, Kevin Harvick, who will retire at the end of the current campaign, was prepared to risk it all. At NASCAR’s premier event, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were both hoping to end their winless runs.
This year’s 500 featured an astounding six rookies. Only one of the six rookies that ran in this year’s 500, Noah Gragson, has ever run in the largest race of the year.
How did the rookies perform at Daytona 500?
Start with Zane Smith, who took first place and was crowned the 2022 Truck Series champion after winning the race on Friday night. The 23-year-old driver of Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 car finished a solid 17th after spending the majority of the time avoiding accidents.
Before switching to the Cup Series full-time in 2023, 24-year-old Noah Gragson had only achieved victories in the Truck Series and Xfinity Series. Although Gragson has competed in the Daytona 500 before finishing 31st in 2021, he is considered a rookie this year because of his full schedule. After starting in 22nd place, he fell victim to “the big one” and dropped to 24th place.
— Racing for Hours (@HoursofRacing) February 15, 2023
At 31 years old, veteran IndyCar driver Conor Daly made his Cup Series debut on Sunday. He provided transportation for Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Money Team. His day did not go as planned since he struggled to keep up with the field and dropped to 29th place six laps later.
Just didn’t have a car to compete today. No rear view mirror from lap 1 either. Learned a great deal in the first 15 laps up in the top lane. Fun to race with the guys. Cycled forward a bit but then got dropped easy. Race was over from then on. Nice to make it to the end! P29.
— Conor Daly (@ConorDaly22) February 20, 2023
Despite being only 20 years old, Ty Gibbs, the 2022 Xfinity Series champion, has already competed in a few Cup Series races as a result of Kurt Busch missing the second half of the regular season in 2022. High hopes are placed on Gibbs going into 2023; however, he finished 25th after being involved in the exact same accident as Gragson.
With a name that resonates with greatness, it only makes sense to hand the keys to one whose name has that same effect in the world of motorsports.#MonsterEnergy #NASCAR #Race #Racing pic.twitter.com/twmExugoCn
— Monster Energy (@MonsterEnergy) February 17, 2023
Travis Pastrana is another who is regarded as one of the sport’s greatest competitors. At almost every level of motor racing that exists, he has participated. He made his Cup Series debut at the Daytona 500, where he shockingly placed 14th. In the end, it was because of his crash on the final lap that the race was stopped under caution.
Fought hard. Not our day.
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) February 20, 2023
23-year-old Riley Herbst finished first among rookies in this year’s Daytona 500. Herbst surprised many people by finishing 10th in his Cup Series debut, slipping into the top 10 at the finish line while racing for the low-budget Rick Ware Racing team.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) February 20, 2023