Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

McDowell Crashes on Final Lap Protecting Talladega Lead


Michael McDowell during NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

LINCOLN, Ala. — Michael McDowell controlled the final 27 laps of Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway but ended up wrecking after a mistimed block coming to the checkered flag, falling short of his third NASCAR Cup Series win.

Instead of a trip to victory lane, McDowell took the ride to the infield care center with a 31st-place finish.

“I’m frustrated right now,” McDowell said after the race. “I’m motivated by our ability to run up there and manage the lanes and do all the things that we did. Our car drove really well and took a push well and had a lot of speed, so those are good things, but it’s wadded up in a pile of rubble right now. It’s just unfortunate.”

Winning the pole for the second time this season and of his career, the 39-year-old from Glendale, Arizona, had arguably one of the top cars. He led seven times for a race-high 36 laps but didn’t end up earning any stage points — in large part based on pit strategy.

While leading in Stage 3, all of the different manufacturers had broken out into drafting groups as they all tried to preserve fuel. In a line of six Toyotas, Bubba Wallace and John Hunter Nemechek got jacked up and crashed with Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones, causing a caution and bunching back up the field.

Finally, McDowell got to show the strength of his Ford Mustang Dark Horse. He paced the field as the laps dwindled, and though he battled Tyler Reddick and didn’t lead every lap, McDowell never fell outside the front row.

At least until the final lap.

With Brad Keselowski pushing him down the backstretch, the top line paced by Reddick began to lose momentum. That essentially set up a one-on-one battle for the win with Noah Gragson lurking in third. Coming into the tri-oval, McDowell slid high to block before Keselowski darted low. However, McDowell came back down a hair too late and got tagged by the No. 6 machine, going around in front of the field and claiming several other victims.

None of the Ford contenders ended up winning as Reddick inched ahead at the time of the caution.


Michael McDowell leads in the final laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo: Ricky Martinez | The Podium Finish)

“We did a good job getting out front and controlling the race and putting ourselves in position,” McDowell said. “Brad is so good at this place and he drug back and I drug back as quick as I could and was able to block that first run that he made, but then when I came down for the second one he was just to my bumper. I mean barely, barely got me, so it’s unfortunate. I hate it for him and I hate it for everybody that was behind that.

“It’s the last lap at Talladega. We’re all going for it, but we really needed to get a Ford Mustang Dark Horse in Victory Lane and we had a shot at doing it there. Unfortunately, I just made a bad move there to put us in that spot.”

Sunday continued an unlucky stretch for the former Daytona 500 champion where three of his last five races have resulted in DNFs. McDowell also crashed last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and battled steering issues at Circuit of the Americas in March. Since finishing 11th at Bristol Motor Speedway, he hasn’t finished better than 21st (Martinsville Speedway).

Through 10 races, McDowell sits 26th in driver’s points.

“It’s been a tough stretch here,” McDowell stated. “We’ve had speed and we’ve run up front and if we keep doing that, we’ll win a race.”


Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NASCAR Cup Series