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McDowell Emerges From 500 Chaos To Get Win

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 15 2021

Michael McDowell celebrates his first ever Cup Series victory. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Journyman driver Michael McDowell won his first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday and it was a biggie.

With a group of wrecking and burning cars just behind him, McDowell was awarded the victory in the  weather and crash delayed 2021 running of the  Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

“I just can’t believe it,” McDowell said. “So many years just grinding it out and hoping for an opportunity like this.

“I’m so thankful.  Such a great way to get a first victory — a Daytona 500.  Are you kidding me?”

The Front Row Motorsports driver was running third behind Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski on the final lap when he bumped Keselowski from behind who then hit Logano and sent both into spinning wrecks that tore up both cars.

“My plan was to stick to the 2 car,” McDowell said. “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.”

“Wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said. “I don’t feel I made a mistake but I can’t drive everybody else’s car. Frustrating.”

“Chaos struck,” Logano said. “Real bummer.”

Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing finished second.

Third was defending series champion Chase Elliott.

Rounding out the top five were Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing was attempting become the first driver in history to win three straight 500s and for much of the race it appeared he just might as he led a race-best 98 laps of the 200-lap race.

But after the final green flag pitstops of the night, a line of five Fords working in concert blew past Hamlin’s Toyota to end his bid.

The race marked the debut of the 23XI team owned by basketball superstar Michael Jordan and Hamlin and driven by Bubba Wallace. Wallace finished 17th but ran near the front for much of the second stage and led one lap.

Just 15 of 200 laps had been run when a lightening strike near the speedway caused the red flag waved. Minutes later heavy rain began to fall.

The race would not restart until 5 hours and 40 minutes later.

The weather was not the only problem for a large handful of teams and drivers who were considered to be contenders for victory in NASCAR’s most important race.

 A big wreck just 14 laps into the race took out a number of big-name drivers, including Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney. In all, 16 cars were involved.

Almirola, Bowman, Daniel Suarez, David Ragan, Anthony Alfredo, Chris Buescher, Ryan Blaney Newman and Jones would not return while several others suffered significant damage.

The wreck began when Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing bump drafted Almirola and spun him out near the front of the field.

“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Stewart-Haas Racing’s 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 the 20 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.”

Newman said, “I had the wreck missed, but got hit from some place and that was the end of our day.”

Bowman had started the race from the pole and was running in the top three when the wreck occurred.

“Hate that superspeedway racing works out that way sometimes,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said, “but that’s just part of the game.”

###

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 63rd Annual DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 14, 2021

  1. (17)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 200.
  2. (12)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.
  3. (4)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
  4. (8)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.
  5. (25)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.
  6. (11)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 200.
  7. (34)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 200.
  8. (19)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200.
  9. (16)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 200.
  10. (13)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
  11. (27)  Cole Custer, Ford, 200.
  12. (9)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 199.
  13. (24)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 199.
  14. (10)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 199.
  15. (39)  Austin Cindric(i), Ford, Accident, 199.
  16. (5)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 199.
  17. (6)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 198.
  18. (21)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 198.
  19. (30)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 197.
  20. (28)  Joey Gase, Ford, 196.
  21. (35)  Cody Ware, Chevrolet, 196.
  22. (20)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 195.
  23. (38)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 195.
  24. (37)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 194.
  25. (26)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 193.
  26. (2)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 191.
  27. (29)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 188.
  28. (40)  Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, DVP, 115.
  29. (33)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Accident, 37.
  30. (14)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 14.
  31. (22)  Chris Buescher, Ford, DVP, 14.
  32. (36)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, DVP, 14.
  33. (23)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, DVP, 14.
  34. (3)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 13.
  35. (1)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.
  36. (15)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.
  37. (18)  David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 13.
  38. (7)  Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 13.
  39. (31)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.
  40. (32)  Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Accident, 3.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  144.416 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 44 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 40 laps.

Lead Changes:  22 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Bowman 1;K. Harvick 2-17;*. Grala 18-27;C. Elliott 28-29;A. Dillon 30;C. Custer 31;D. Hamlin 32-71;*. 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.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin 6 times for 98 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 32 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 26 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 17 laps; * Kaz Grala 1 time for 10 laps; Austin Dillon 3 times for 7 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 3 laps; * Austin Cindric(i) 1 time for 2 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 lap; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 1 lap; Cole Custer 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,37,3,5,33,20,23,22,42,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,4,23,9,3,22,34,5,18,2

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 15 2021
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