DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Michael McDowell emerged as the surprise winner of the 2021 Daytona 500, escaping a major final-lap fall triggered by Brad Keselowski and his teammate Penske and late league leader Joey Logano.
The wild end of the season opener of the NASCAR Cup Series brought McDowell his first career win in his 14th season at the highest level.
As the late wreck began to unfold down the back straight at Daytona International Speedway, Loganos and Keselowski’s cars parted, creating an opening for McDowell in the Front Row Motorsports Ford No. 34. McDowell slipped into the lead when NASCAR raised the warning flag, and because he was ahead at the release, he was declared the winner.
Cup Series defending champion Chase Elliott finished second, followed by Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who dominated most of the race, running 98 laps at race height. Logano reached 12th place, Keselowski 13th place.
McDowell, on the other hand, only led part of the final lap, but that’s the only thing that matters.
“I just can’t believe it,” McDowell told FOX Sports immediately after the race. “I just have to thank God. So many years just to work it out and hope for an opportunity like this … We ended up having our Ford partners and they all crashed, but luckily I made it.” I am just so grateful. “
The celebrations began with new celebrity team owners Michael Jordan and Pitbull taking up the pre-race action before Pitbull, acting as Grand Marshal, gave the drivers orders to start their engines. Jordan has teamed up with reigning Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin as a co-owner of 23XI Racing, with Bubba Wallace driving the No. 23 Toyota. Pitbull founded Trackhouse Racing together with former racing driver Justin Marks with Daniel Suárez as the driver of the team in the No. 99 Chevrolet.
But it wasn’t long before chaos erupted at NASCAR’s most famous race. The Big One hit early on the 2.5-mile super speedway when on lap 14 a small movement triggered a large wreck and several cars were collected through the muddy infield grass with a few shots.
Christopher Bell accidentally made contact with Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Ford in the No. 20 Toyota, and Almirola’s car shot right and into Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Chevrolet. Almirola and Bowman slammed into the wall and bounced back into the cars that ran behind them, creating a large pile.
In addition to Almirola and Bowman, Suárez, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher and David Ragan were also involved.
Just a few minutes after the fall, it was raining on the track and the race was marked in red, resulting in a long delay.