Michael McDowell Wins the Daytona 500

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL – RIS – Michael McDowell won the 63rd Daytona 500 on early Monday morning after a spectacular wreck on the final lap.  As the last lap unfolded, Joey Logano was leading with Brad Keselowski close behind.  McDowell was behind Keselowski.  When Keselowski made his move, he was being pushed by McDowell, and the extra speed that resulted made Keselowski’s attempted pass put him into the rear of Logano’s car, spinning both of them in a fiery crash.  McDowell was able to hold off Chase Elliott for the win.

McDowell had been a great pusher all night for various drivers, so there was obviously nothing either he or Keselowski could do.  It’s part of racing at the World Center of Speed the 2.5-mile track is known for these days.

McDowell led only the final lap for the victory, which came in his 358th start in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I just can’t believe it,” the Front Row Motorsports driver said. “So many years just grinding it out hoping for an opportunity like this. “Such a great way to get a first victory. Daytona 500, are you kidding me?”

It was the long-time competitor’s first NASCAR Cup win, something he has waited for years and 358 starts.  He drives for Bob Jenkins’s Front Row Motorsports with an alignment with Roush Fenway Racing and Ford.

Austin Dillon finished second, followed by Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece, Jamie McMurray, Corey LaJoie and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.

The checkered flag fell at 12:15 a.m. Monday in a race that started shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday but was interrupted by a nearly six-hour delay for rain.

The final crash was a fiery wreck that collected several drivers after Keselowski made contact while trying to pass Logano for the lead. With drafting help from McDowell, Keselowski had swung into the low line and was moving alongside his teammate when the crash happened.

“Had a big run down the backstretch, went to make the pass to win the Daytona 500, and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski, who remained winless in 13 attempts at trying to win The Great American Race, said. “Don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everyone else’s car.”

“Frustrating, the Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position, and right then, we were in position. That’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package. Had the run, made the move. Then it didn’t work out.”

Their Fords both slammed the wall, as did the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch at full speed. The wreck also collected Austin Cindric, Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace. All drivers were evaluated and released from the infield care center.

Hamlin led a race-high 98 of 200 laps and won both stages in his bid to become the first driver in NASCAR history to score three consecutive victories in the Daytona 500. But the No. 11 Toyota driver was burned by green-flag pit strategy on his final stop, as the Fords and Chevys leap-frogged his car by pitting earlier.

Wallace finished 17th after running well for most of 500 miles and rebounding after starting from the rear in the debut of the No. 23 Toyota 23XI Racing team co-owned by Hamlin and Michael Jordan. The strong run was negated when a wheel vibration caused an unscheduled pit stop under green for Wallace, who had been running in the top five with 25 laps remaining.

The race was stopped for five hours and 40 minutes because of storms that produced lighting, hail and torrential amounts of rain on the 2.5-mile speedway, which initially fell under the fed flag at 3:28 p.m. ET.

The yellow flag was lifted at 9:07 p.m., but it still took another 25 minutes and 15 laps of caution to dry the surface.

Just before the red flag, several contenders were eliminated in a 16-car crash on Lap 14 that started at the front.

The pileup was triggered when Christopher Bell tried to bump-draft Aric Almirola, who was running in second behind Harvick entering Turn 3. The impact on the right rear of the No. 10 Ford sent Almirola careening right up the banking, collecting pole-sitter Alex Bowman’s No. 48 Chevrolet.

Both cars hit the wall and started a chain reaction that also collected Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, David Ragan, Anthony Alfredo, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray and Daniel Suarez.

The accident immediately knocked out Almirola, who had won a qualifying race Thursday, Blaney, Bowman, Suarez, Ragan, Newman and Jones. DiBenedetto, Alfredo and Buescher also were eliminated nearly six hours later when their teams couldn’t fix their damaged cars in time to make minimum speed.

“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Almirola said. “It’s a long, long race. Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three and (Bell) just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot, and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”

Said Ragan: “It’s just unfortunate to have a bunch of tore-up race cars that early.  I’ve never met a driver that said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna start this 500-mile race and just be super-aggressive.’  We all talk about give and take and making it to the end, but it seems nobody does that once they get out there.  It’s frustrating that everybody is pushing and shoving and I just saw the 48 get turned and whenever someone wrecks in the top five or six it tears up a lot of cars.”

Showing the strength of his No. 11 Toyota Camry, Hamlin won bpth stages before the final laps for the win.  Hamlin wanted that win. It would have been his third straight, but it was not to be.

Unofficial Results: 63rd Annual Daytona 500, February 14, 2021, Daytona International Speedway

Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 17, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, 200, , 7, 1, 1, 5, 44, Running
2) 12, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 200, , 4, 2, 3, , 42, Running
3) 4, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet, 200, 3, 5, 3, 7, , 48, Running
4) 8, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Busch Light #TheCrew Ford, 200, , 2, 2, 17, , 42, Running
5) 25, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Toyota, 200, 1, 1, 6, 98, 2, 52, Running
6) 11, * Ryan Preece, No. 37 Cottonelle Chevrolet, 200, 2, , , , , 40, Running
7) 34, Ross Chastain, No. 42 Clover Chevrolet, 200, 9, , , , , 32, Running
8) 19, Jamie McMurray, No. 77 AdventHealth Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 29, Running
9) 16, Corey LaJoie, No. 7 Youtheory Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 28, Running
10) 13, Kyle Larson, No. 5 Nations Guard Chevrolet, 200, 4, 8, 1, 1, , 37, Running
11) 27, Cole Custer, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford, 200, 10, , 1, 1, , 27, Running
12) 9, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 199, 8, 6, 2, 26, , 33, Accident
13) 24, Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford, 199, , 10, , , , 25, Accident
14) 10, Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's Toyota, 199, , 9, , , , 25, Accident
15) 39, * Austin Cindric(i), No. 33 Verizon 5G Ford, 199, 5, , 1, 2, , 0, Accident
16) 5, Christopher Bell, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota, 199, 6, , 1, 32, , 26, Running
17) 6, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 DoorDash Toyota, 198, 7, 3, 1, 1, , 32, Accident
18) 21, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger/NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet, 198, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 30, Chase Briscoe #, No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford, 197, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 28, Joey Gase, No. 53 Page Construction Ford, 196, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 35, Cody Ware, No. 51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet, 196, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 20, Kurt Busch, No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, 195, , , , , , 15, Running
23) 38, BJ McLeod(i), No. 78 NASCAR Heat 5 Ford, 195, , , , , , 0, Running
24) 37, Josh Bilicki, No. 52 Wisconsin Lighting Lab Ford, 194, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 26, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, 193, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 2, William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, 191, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 29, Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Lenovo Chevrolet, 188, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 40, * Kaz Grala, No. 16 Hyper Ice Chevrolet, 115, , , 1, 10, , 9, DVP
29) 33, Quin Houff, No. 00 Mane 'n Tail Chevrolet, 37, , , , , , 8, Accident
30) 14, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards/Blue DEF/PEAK Ford, 14, , , , , , 7, Accident
31) 22, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Fastenal Ford, 14, , , , , , 6, DVP
32) 36, Anthony Alfredo #, No. 38 Speedy Cash Ford, 14, , , , , , 5, DVP
33) 23, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, 14, , , , , , 4, DVP
34) 3, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 13, , , , , , 3, Accident
35) 1, Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 13, , , 1, 1, , 2, Accident
36) 15, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 iFly Chevrolet, 13, , , , , , 1, Accident
37) 18, * David Ragan, No. 36 Select Blinds Ford, 13, , , , , , 1, Accident
38) 7, Ryan Newman, No. 6 Kohler Generators Ford, 13, , , , , , 1, Accident
39) 31, Erik Jones, No. 43 Armor All Chevrolet, 13, , , , , , 1, Accident
40) 32, Derrike Cope, No. 15 Jacob Companies Chevrolet, 3, , , , , , 1, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 44 Secs.
Race Length: 200 Laps, 500 Miles

Average Speed: 144.416 MPH
Margin of Victory: Under Caution

Stage 1 Top 10: 11, 37, 3, 5, 33, 20, 23, 22, 42, 41
Stage 2 Top 10: 11, 4, 23, 9, 3, 22, 34, 5, 18, 2

Race Comments: Michael McDowell has won the 63rd running of the DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway, his first victory in the NASCAR Cup Series. Prior to the start, the following vehicle(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: Nos. 23 (Multiple Inspection Failures), 43 (Engine Change), 19 (Radiator Change), 41, 24, 42, 2, 14, 16, 38 (Back Up Cars).

Failed to Qualify: (4) 96 Ty Dillon(i), 13 Garrett Smithley(i), 66 Timmy Hill(i), 62 Noah Gragson(i).

Caution Flags: 7 for 40 laps;
Laps: 4-7 (No. 15 Incident Turn 4 [None]);
15-29 (No. 19, 43, 77, 48, 21, 8, 10, 17, 12, 24, 6, 20, 1, 36, 38, 99 Incident Turn 3 / Weather [Red: 05:40:29] [None]);
39-43 (No. 00, 14 Incident Frontstretch [77]);
67-71 (Stage 1 Conclusion [77]);
113-117 (No. 47, 20, 5, 77 Incident Backstretch [None]);
132-136 (Stage 2 Conclusion [20]);
200-200 (No. 2, 22, 37, 9, 42, 18, 23, 33 Incident Turn 3 [None]).

Lead Changes: 22 among 13 drivers;
A. Bowman 1;
K. Harvick 2-17;
*K. Grala 18-27;
C. Elliott 28-29;
A. Dillon 30;
C. Custer 31;
D. Hamlin 32-71;
*A. Cindric(i) 72-73;
D. Hamlin 74;
C. Bell 75-106;
A. Dillon 107-108;
C. Elliott 109;
K. Larson 110;
D. Hamlin 111-117;
J. Logano 118;
K. Harvick 119;
D. Hamlin 120-128;
B. Wallace 129;
D. Hamlin 130-132;
A. Dillon 133-136;
D. Hamlin 137-174;
J. Logano 175-199;
M. McDowell 200.

Busch Pole Award: Alex Bowman, No. 48 191.262 mph
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Chase Briscoe, No. 14

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2021, Issue 2, Posted 1:35 AM, 02.15.2021