Michael McDowell Wins Daytona 500 in Wild Finish

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs

Michael McDowell earned his first NASCAR Cup Series victory, the 63rd Daytona 500, after a chaotic last lap set up the perfect finish. 

McDowell took the lead after Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski collided, resulting in an intense multicar wreck during the Great American Race. 

“I can’t believe it,” McDowell said. “I’ve got to thank God. So many years of just grinding it out, hoping for an opportunity like this. I’ve got to thank (team owner) Bob Jenkins for giving me this opportunity. I’m so thankful. 

“What a great way to get a first victory — in the Daytona 500!”

McDowell earned the victory in his 358th career Cup start. The victory is Front Row Motorsports third win in the series, with previous wins with Chris Buescher (Pocono, 2016) and David Ragan (Talladega, 2013). 

McDowell became the eighth different driver to earn their first career premier series victory in the Daytona 500. He is the first in a decade, when Trevor Bayne last earned the victory in his second series start. 

Chase Elliott finished second on Sunday, matching his finish at the 2.5-mile track during the summer event last August. 

“I saw the lights come on (for the caution), and I knew it was over right then,” Elliott said. “We had a fast car. We weren’t as good as I thought we were on Thursday (in the Duel 150-mile qualifying race). I thought we did a really good job of executing today, staying out of trouble.

“That’s not something I’ve done a very good job of here in this race, so I’m glad we could at least finish this race and have something to build on for when we come back and try to do better.”

Austin Dillon finished third, with Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top five. 

Ryan Preece earned his sixth career top-10 finish with sixth on Sunday, Ross Chastain finished seventh, and Jamie McMurray, Corey LaJoie and Kyle Larson finished eighth through 10th, respectively. 

The checkered flag waved in the early hours of Monday morning after nearly a six-hour rain delay put the event under red flag conditions as they waited it out. 

Keselowski finished in the 13th position despite being involved in the last lap crash. He attempted to make a move for the lead on the final lap when Logano's block sent the No. 2 car spinning into a field of cars. 

“Had a big run down the backstretch, went to make the pass to win the Daytona 500, and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski told FOX. “Don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everyone else’s car.” 

Logano, who finished one spot ahead of his Penske teammate, recalled the incident. 

“Pandemonium, I guess," Logano said. "Chaos struck. (Keselowski) kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him and try to keep the runs from being too big. I guess he got to the back of (McDowell), and it ended up being a really big run coming at me, and it seemed we all just collided in one spot.

“Real bummer that neither Penske car won, but at least a Ford won, and I’m really happy for McDowell. If we couldn’t win, I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person. A good leader in life and has helped me a lot in my life. So very cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”

The Lap 200 wreck also collected two-time series champion Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Bubba Wallace, Preece, and Chastain. 

Another multicar crash collected 16 drivers on Lap 14 of the event after the No. 20 of Christopher Bell tried to bump-draft with Aric Almirola. 

The contact between the two drivers caused the entire field to react to avoid being involved, but some weren’t so fortunate. 

Those drivers were Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, Ragan, Anthony Alfredo, Erik Jones, McMurray and Daniel Suarez, and Alex Bowman. 

The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Daytona on Feb. 21, 2021 to run the 3.610-mile road course. Elliott won the inaugural event in August 2020 by 0.202 seconds over Hamlin. 

Michael McDowell Wins Daytona 500 in Wild Finish  Michael McDowell Wins Daytona 500 in Wild Finish Reviewed by Courtney Horn on Monday, February 15, 2021 Rating: 5