Daytona Beach, Florida – Someone had to take a step to win the Daytona 500, and maybe Michael McDowell would have pulled out of the traffic to take his shot at an unpleasant monster. McDowell was never allowed to play his hand.
He navigated through an astonishing, flaming, last-shot crash that involved Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to get a huge upset early Monday morning. It was the boy’s first career NASCAR Cup Series victory in his 14th season, notes CBS Sports.
A 100-1 underdog when the race started Sunday afternoon, McDowell won for the first time in the 358 Cup starter when the checkered flag finally flew about 15 minutes after midnight. The race was stopped by rain for nearly six hours and ended nine hours after the green flag waved at Daytona International Speedway.
“So many years just grinding it out and hoping for an opportunity like this,” McDowell said. “Such a great way to get a first win – a Daytona 500. Are you bothering me?”
NASCAR’s season opener was stacked with stories. Denny Hamlin tried a record third victory in the Daytona 500 victory, and the team he started with Michael Jordan debuted with driver Bubba Wallace.
Hamlin led for nearly half of the race but finished fifth, CBS Sports reported, adding that three other drivers ahead of him – Sterling Marlin (1994, 1995), Cale Yarborough (1983, 1984) and Richard Petty (1973, 1974) – – won the Daytona 500 in back-to-back years.
Kyle Larson was back after nearly a year in exile for spending a racial slur, and reigning cup champion Chase Elliott tried to get his first Daytona 500 victory.
And all the way back on the track, Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope from 1990 did what he said would be his last NASCAR start. At 62, he was the oldest rider in the field, and his disrupted victory 31 years ago was considered the greatest in the race.
McDowell did not challenge Cope for this distinction because McDowell is considered a talented superspeedway racer who just needed to be in the right place to finally win.
He watched and waited as he demanded Team Penske teammates Logano and Keselowski, and it was Keselowski who finally escaped the car parade. Keselowski tried to pass Logano, but teammates made contact and triggered a melee across the Daytona International Speedway.
“I wanted to hand over the card to win the Daytona 500, and it ended really badly,” Keselowski said. “I do not feel like I made a mistake, but I can not drive everyone else’s car. So frustrating.”
Logano had no explanation for the ending.
“Pandemonium, I suppose. Chaos struck,” he said.
It was actually chaos when McDowell cleared the crash. The collisions were on top of each other, flames erupted all over the track as McDowell Elliott and Austin Dillon pulled until NASCAR finally called for a warning.
A batch of solid participants were knocked off the race just 15 laps by a 16-car accident that began in front of the track that thinned the pack.
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