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NASCAR Cup: Michael McDowell scores surprise Daytona 500 win

By AMANDA VINCENT

After 358 NASCAR Cup Series starts, Michael McDowell finally claimed career-win number one in the early hours of Monday morning when he took a surprise win in the 2021 Daytona 500. 

“I just can’t believe it,” McDowell said. “I’ve just got to thank God. 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 (car owner) 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.”

McDowell was in position to take the win when Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski wrecked on the final lap as Keselowski attempted to take the lead from Logano.

“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,” Keselowski said. ”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 (crew chief) 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.”

Other drivers collected in the last-lap crash included Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

Logano took the lead at the end of the final cycle of cycle of green-flag pit stops that began with Ford teams with 30 laps remaining. Two-time reigning Daytona 500 winner Hamlin was leading before the cycle, but when the small group of Toyota drivers got spaced out after their pit stops, a group of Ford drivers — Logano, Kevin Harvick, Cole Custer, Keselowski and McDowell — moved into the top-five.

“We were too far out front,” Hamlin said. “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. 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.”

Harvick ran second to Logano for most of the remaining laps, until Keselowski took second with two laps remaining. Elliott still managed a second-place finish.

Austin Dillon was third and Harvick finished fourth. Hamlin finished fifth after two stage wins and a race-high 98 laps led.

The race started on time, despite inclement weather in the area, but, first, lightning and, then, rain, resulted in a five hour, 40 minute and 29-second red flag after the completion of 15 of the scheduled 200 laps.

Harvick led most of the laps prior to the red flag. After an official eighth-place start to the race, he was in the lead by the time the yellow flag waved for the first time on lap four when Derrike Cope wrecked after contact with Wallace.

The race was under caution for the second time for a 16-car wreck on lap 14 when the race was red-flagged for weather. Drivers involved included pole sitter Alex Bowman, William Byron, Aric Almirola, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, Martin Truex Jr. Chris Buescher and Erik Jones, among others.

“It looks like the No. 10 (Almirola) kind of got turned sideways, there, and I was the guy that got ran into,” Bowman said. “Bummer, I hate it for Ally. Obviously, we had a really fast Camaro. The Chevrolet’s were working good together; hopefully, a Chevy still ends up in victory lane. Hats off to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports; they built some really fast race cars. Hate that superspeedway racing works out that way sometimes, but that’s just part of the game.”

Hamlin’s dominance began soon after the race resumed, as he led most of the remaining laps of the opening 65-lap stage. He and a couple of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Busch and Christopher Bell, were in the top-three early in the second stage, with Bell taking the lead.

The trio of JGR Toyota drivers got separated after a cycle of green-flag pit stops that began on lap 105. Kyle Larson, Elliott and Harvick took the top-three positions, but Hamlin resumed the lead by the time Bell spun and brought out the fifth caution of the race on lap 113.

Hamlin’s dominance of the race continued until the last cycle of stops.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Preece, Chastain, McMurray, Corey LaJoie and Larson.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Daytona 500:

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Posted by on February 15, 2021. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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