Debuting a new racing format consisting of three stages, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hosted its season opener this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Coming off of a solid finish of 10th in the Can-Am Duel 1 on Thursday, Cole Whitt, in the Florida Lottery No. 72, rolled off the grid in the 17th position to start the 59th running of the Daytona 500.
Early in Stage One, on lap eight, Whitt relayed the handling was "edgy off Turn 4 into Turn one and really, really loose off." Whitt continued to run near the rear of the field in an effort to keep the Florida Lottery No. 72 safe as intensity begin to increase on track resulting in multi-vehicle incidents.
In Stage Two, Whitt began to pick up positions and move up into the pack. Navigating through "the big one" that collected sixteen cars, Whitt escaped with minor damage which allowed him to advance as high as fourth for the restart.
As the race progressed into Stage Three, the competition became fierce and Whitt narrowly escaped another significant incident, allowing Whitt the opportunity to assume the lead and carry the field back to green flag racing. Whitt remained consistent and steady running in the Top-15, when with two laps to go he ran out of fuel but was able to coast across the finish and secure an 18th place finish for the Daytona 500.