NASCAR underdog Michael McDowell pulls off upset, misses Big One to win Daytona 500
Updated: Feb 16
Michael McDowell avoided a fiery, multi-car crash on the final lap to capture his first career victory, the Daytona 500, on Sunday. McDowell wins the 63rd running of the Great American Race in his 14th try, after beginning his NASCAR career in 2008. He becomes the eighth first-time winner in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500, the first since Trevor Bayne won in 2011.
"Just gotta thank God...so many years of grinding it out, hoping for an opportunity like this," said the Arizona native during his post-race interview. "Such a great way to get (my) first victory, Daytona 500 are you kidding me???"
In a span of 14 years in the Cup Series, McDowell has driven for five different race teams, achieving a career-best fourth-place finish in 2017 while driving the 95 car for Levine Family Racing. Ironically, that fourth-place finish came at Daytona.
Defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finished second, Austin Dillon third, Kevin Harvick fourth, and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Hamlin, who led a race-high 98 laps, was attempting to win his third-straight Daytona 500. Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain, Jamie McMurray, Corey LaJoie, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.
A handful of new race teams made their debuts in Sunday's race. Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr finished 17th driving for 23XI Racing, owned by Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Daniel Suárez finished 36th, after crashing out of the race early, driving for TrackHouse Racing Team, owned by Justin Marks and well-known music artist Pitbull.
The 500-mile race was delayed due to rain after 15 laps, but not before the "Big One" struck. A massive crash involving 14 cars would eliminate 11 drivers from finishing the race, including Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, and polesitter Alex Bowman.
After a five-hour delay, the race resumed and would only have two more cautions before contact between Penske teammates Joey Logano, who was leading at the time, and Brad Keselowski sparked the final-lap crash. Keselowski's number 2 car caught fire after getting slammed into by Kyle Busch's number 18 and rookie Austin Cindric's number 33, as other drivers such as Wallace and Chastain were collected. Every driver involved walked away under his own power and sustained no injuries.