McDowell Takes Stunning Daytona 500 Triumph

All eyes were on the prize as the green flag waved on the 63rd running of the Daytona 500. (Image: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

All eyes were on the prize as the green flag waved on the 63rd running of the Daytona 500. (Image: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

A stunner at Daytona happened as Michael McDowell escaped the two-day fiasco to score his maiden NASCAR Cup Series win. It was not just an extraordinary win, but none other than the 63rd running of the Daytona 500.

Coming to the backstretch, Joey Logano was leading until a push by McDowell led to some contact with Brad Keselowski. The bump led to Keselowski running into Logano, who had attempted a block, causing a nasty crash that eliminated several drivers. McDowell held off Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon to get Front Row Motorsports’ third career series win.

Sweet victory! Michael McDowell claims his first win in the NASCAR Cup Series. (Image: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Sweet victory! Michael McDowell claims his first win in the NASCAR Cup Series. (Image: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Opportunities and Elation

The elated Arizona-native expressed how important that victory meant to him as he’s been competing in the Cup Series since 2008.

“I just can’t believe it. The only thing I can think of is just God is so good. For so many years I’ve just been grinding it out trying to stay in this sport,” said McDowell. “Bob Jenkins gave me a great opportunity to go full-time in a competitive car and Drew Blickensderfer and my whole entire team, we’ve been working so hard for years to get into this position.

“I’m so thankful to Love’s Travel Stops and Speedco and Ford, Doug Yates. All of my Ford partners out there. We had a good plan coming to the white and unfortunately, Joey and Brad got together and the hole opened up. I just can’t believe it. I’m so thankful. It’s amazing!”

McDowell described the last lap where his plan was to work with Keselowski, but the plan just backfired. However, things worked out for the best on his end.

“My plan was to stick to the 2 car,” McDowell said on working with Keselowski. “I knew he would go for a race-winning move and my plan was to let him make that move and then coming off of four, try to get to his outside or inside.  I knew I didn’t want to make my move too early, so I was committed to the 2 car’s bumper and when he made the move, the hole opened up.  It’s just unbelievable.”

Runner-Up Reflections

Keselowski

Keselowski felt he wasn’t the man with any wrongdoing on his savage accident, due to the fact it was a deal where a run went completely wrong.

“I had a big run down the backstretch and wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” said Keselowski. “I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car. So frustrating.  The Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position, and right then, we were in position.

“It’s exactly where I want to be, running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”

Hamlin

Three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin dominated the race but would fall out of contention towards the end. While he made it past the big wreck, he ended up an agonizing fifth.

Hamlin felt the race got away from him after pulling out in first a bit too far that the field ran him down following the final green flag pit stops.

“We were too far out front,” said Hamlin. “We got on-and-off pit road too good. I was just too far ahead of the pack. I figured the Chevys would make a move from two or three to go because they are not going to win on the last lap from fifth or sixth.

“I was able to gain some positions…I think I was 12th and everybody was running single file, so it handcuffed me. I couldn’t really do anything,” Hamlin continued. “I hoped once I got to eighth, as long as they make a move with two to go, I’m in the energy – in the area where I can make something happen. Dominant car, just a dominant car. Just one of those things that execute too good.”

Stage 1

WWE superstar Sasha Banks waved the green flag to kick off the 200-lap odyssey as pole sitter Alex Bowman led early in the going. Kevin Harvick cut that parade short as he took the top spot at the end of Lap 2.

A lap later, 1990 Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope slammed the Turn 3 wall. It brought out the first caution of the race and his potential final start ended with a last-place result. Cope also played a role in Bubba Wallace sustaining damage when the race began. Once Cope’s day was over, Wallace’s damage forced him to pit for repairs.

Back up front, it was all fun and games until Lap 13. Christopher Bell tapped Aric Almirola at the end of the backstretch. This sent Almirola around and he got slammed by Bowman. The dreaded Big One had happened, eliminating several contenders such as Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, and Ryan Newman.

Adding insult to injury, Mother Nature reared her ugly head two laps later as lightning appeared on the horizon. As a result, NASCAR had no other choice but to red flag the race with Harvick leading. A torrential downpour ensued and the competition would have to wait 5:40:28 until the yellow flag came back out.

The action resumed on Lap 30 with Elliott leading the way. However, his time at the front was quickly short-lived with Dillon taking command. Shortly thereafter, Hamlin showcased that if anyone wanted to win the race, they would have to get through him.

When the stage ended on Lap 65, Hamlin held off Ryan Preece and Dillon to take the first stage win of the 2021 season.

 Stage 1 Results: Hamlin, Preece, A. Dillon, Larson, Cindric, Bell, Wallace, Logano, Chastain, and Custer

 

Stage 2

Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric got a strong push from his Penske teammates, Logano and Keselowski, to take the lead on Lap 71. The future Wood Brother’s racers’ time out front was short-lived as the veterans gave him a “welcome to the Cup Series” moment and left him out in the cold.

From there, Bell had his turn to set the tone which had him leading the freight train of cars. However, Bell’s fun night turned into a nightmare after his left rear tire went down. It was evident on Lap 111 when his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota Camry got sideways in Turn 1.

He nearly made contact with Wallace before running into Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on the backstretch. Jamie McMurray would spin behind them as their excursion brought out the fifth yellow of the night.

Under caution, Kaz Grala’s right rear tire went ablaze on pit road. He tried continuing his race, but the fire was still underneath his Kaulig Racing machine. He brought it back to pit road again and it was game over for the Massachusetts native.

Kaz Grala's wheel well ablaze on pit road. (Image: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Kaz Grala’s wheel well ablaze on pit road. (Image: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Coming to the last lap of the stage, Wallace made a tremendous block on McDowell on the bottom and took the lead. McDowell nearly got into Wallace on the backstretch, hurting a bit of their momentum. That was all Hamlin needed to take the top spot and with a push by Harvick, the second stage went to the defending 500 champ.

Stage 2 Results: Hamlin, Harvick, Wallace, Elliott, A. Dillon, Logano, McDowell, Larson, Ky. Busch, and Keselowski

 

Stage 3

Hamlin’s bid for a third straight 500 nearly went awry following Harvick shaking him twice on the backstretch with 63 laps remaining. After that near scare, Hamlin would hang onto the lead until making his last green flag stop with 28 to go.

A solid stop would keep him in P1 momentarily but he lost the lead when the pack, led by Logano, took over the race. Hamlin had no help as he was completely separated from Busch. The loneliness relegated him outside the top-10, unfamiliar territory for the three-time winner.

Midnight would strike at Daytona with Logano still in the lead up until the last lap. When the big wreck happened, it also collected Wallace, Cindric, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Preece. Upon further review, NASCAR declared McDowell as the man who pulled the big upset as cars were crashing and burning behind him.

McDowell becomes the first driver to get their maiden Cup win in the Daytona 500 since Trevor Bayne a decade ago. Even with the triumph, there’s a grander picture that goes beyond him winning “The Great American Race.”

Burn it down, McDowell! A long sought after victory for the Glendale, Arizona native. (Image: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Image)

Burn it down, McDowell! A long sought after victory for the Glendale, Arizona native. (Image: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Image)

“Whether I win this race or not it’s not what defines you,” said McDowell. “It’s unbelievable and I’m so thankful, but I’m thankful to have a happy, healthy family and a beautiful wife and a great family. Not everybody makes it to victory lane and for 14 years I didn’t, so just to be here now is just so amazing.”

Final Top 10 Results: McDowell, Elliott, A. Dillon, Harvick, Hamlin, Preece, Chastain, McMurray, LaJoie, and Larson

Be sure to follow the Daytona 500 Champion and FRM on Twitter for all the post-race pomp and circumstance.

luisdtorres94@hotmail.com'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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