DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A year ago, it was Ricky Stenhouse who won the war of attrition and NASCAR's signature July race under the lights at Daytona International Speedway.
It was Stenhouse who would be the cause of attrition Saturday night with the "Big One" that claimed half the field. But it was a little-known driver, Erik Jones, who passed the reigning series champion, Martin Truex Jr by .125 of a second at the finish line to win the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Jones was out front for the first time on the backstretch of the final lap - the only one he would lead, but that's all that mattered when all was said and done in a race that took two overtimes to complete.
“How about that race, boys, and girls?” Jones shouted to the fans in the grandstands after a doing a burnout. “My first Cup win, my first win at Daytona, my first superspeedway win — what an awesome day, man!"
Jones continued, “There’s so much smoke in the car from that burnout, I can hardly breathe, but what an awesome finish.”
Diehard race fans like Michael Drews of Edgewater didn't know what to do since Jones was among the many unknowns in the field. There was no Dale Earnmhardt Jr. No, Michael Waltrip. No, Jeff Gordon. No, Tony Stewart.
"Many of the fans applauded because he won but they didn't know who he was," Drews said, himself included.