Michael McDowell scored his first victory in a Monday morning finish to the 63rd running of the Daytona 500, missing a final-lap crash to kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with a triumph in stock-car racing’s most prestigious race.
McDowell led only the last of The Great American Race’s 200 laps, avoiding a last-lap collision between Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski for the lead at Daytona International Speedway. It marked the first win of the Front Row Motorsports driver’s Cup Series career after a span of 357 winless starts.
Chase Elliott came home second with Austin Dillon third, Kevin Harvick fourth, and Denny Hamlin closing out the top five. Coming to the white flag, Ford had the top-four spots locked down before the final push to the finish sent Keselowski into the rear of Logano, triggering a fiery multi-car wreck to close the night.
Ten of the 40 drivers who started the race were sidelined by a massive 16-car wreck on Lap 14, triggered by Christopher Bell’s nudge of Aric Almirola’s number 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang at the end of the backstretch.
Seven drivers were unable to continue and three teams were done for the day after the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) crash clock expired during their repairs, including the Fords of Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Anthony Alfredo, Matt DiBenedetto, Aric Almirola, David Ragan, and Ryan Newman.
The race was red-flagged for 5 hours, 40 minutes with 15 laps complete after rain and lightning hit the 2.5-mile track. The race resumed under green-flag conditions on lap 30 at 9:34 p.m. ET, leading to an early Monday morning finish.
“I just can’t believe it. I’ve just got to thank God,” Michael McDowell said post-race. “So many years just grinding it out and hoping for an opportunity like this. I’ve got to thank Love’s Travel Stops, Speedco, Bob Jenkins for giving me this opportunity. I’m so thankful. Such a great way to get a first victory – a Daytona 500. Are you kidding me? I just want to say hi to my wife back home. Happy Valentine’s Day. I know it’s been a tough week. My kids, I love you guys. I wish they could be here with me to celebrate. Maybe NASCAR will send a plane to bring them down here, but we’re the Daytona 500 champions. Thank you Doug Yates, Ford. We had our Ford partners at the end and they all crashed, but luckily I was able to make it through. I’m just so thankful. God is good.”
The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race is scheduled for Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) at Daytona’s 3.61-mile road-course layout.