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Austin Cindric clinches first Daytona 500 win; crashes nixed top contenders

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Austin Cindric clinches first Daytona 500 win; crashes nixed top contenders
Austin Cindric celebrates his win in the 64th annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona, Fla. Photo by Mike Gentry/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Austin Cindric won his first Daytona 500 Sunday in a race that saw multiple crashes take out major contenders, including a pair in the last few laps.

Cindric, 23, successfully warded off advances by Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace to win the race in his Ford Mustang, delivering Team Penske owner Roger Penske an 85th birthday present in his eighth start.

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Blaney pushed Cindric off Turn 4 in the final lap but Cindric was able to block, before managing to hold off Wallace near the start/finish line for the win.

Cindric also successfully avoided a pair of late-race crashes including one on lap 196 that saw Ricky Stenhouse, who was leading the race with eight laps to go but was ultimately forced to end his day after spinning out into the wall.

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Wallace, Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski were also involved in the crash but were able to keep driving.

Two laps earlier, 2021 Cup Series champion Kyle Larsen crashed into Kevin Harvick, the 2007 Daytona 500 champ, sending him spinning out causing a six-car crash.

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Stage 1 ended with an eight-car crash on lap 64 that saw favorite Denny Hamlin eliminated from the race.

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Harrison Burton, 21, was being tailed closely by Keselowski as his vehicle swerved into the next lane over, colliding with another car and sending Burton flying.

"It's never good," Burton said of the crash, which ended his first Daytona 500. "Frustrating weekend. We worked really hard all week working up to that ... wanted to get a stage points there and just got turned around."

In addition to Burton and Hamlin, William Byron and Ross Chastain were also eliminated in the crash.

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Hamlin, who was the only Cup Series driver to not record a Did Not Finish in last year said Keselowski's "over-aggressive" driving caused the crash.

"I saw it coming, and that's the tough part," he said. "You could see that 21 [Burton's car] was kind of sideways and out of control and Brad just wouldn't let him go. Eventually, you've got to let him go and get his reins back."

Martin Treux Jr., who won the first two stages, was caught up in a crash on lap 152 that also invilved contender Joey Logano after Tyler Reddick turned sideways in the middle of a pack and was sent spinning into the far lane.

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Reddick was eliminated from the race, while Logano sustained tire damage after he was sent into the grass and Truex's vehicle saw some right front damage.

Kurt Busch and Jaque Villeneuve were also involved in the crash.

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