20 years after Michael Waltrip snapped a long winless drought, another Michael did the same in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Michael McDowell ended a 357-race winless streak as he claimed his first win in Sunday’s race. McDowell led one lap in becoming the eighth driver to earn their first win in the Daytona 500.
McDowell avoided a fiery multi-car wreck on the final lap that included Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski who had been running ahead of McDowell in first and second.
“I had a plan before the race started. As it wound down to the last 10 laps, I was in a pretty good position.” McDowell said. “My plan was to push the 2 and make a move on him exiting turn four.”
“As a kid growing up, I always dreamed of being a racecar driver but never a Daytona 500 champion.”
McDowell’s win means that he is virtually locked into his first Cup playoff berth as a driver. Front Row Motorsports (FRM) is also a virtual lock for their second Cup playoff berth as a team.
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finished second and Duel 2 winner Austin Dillon finished third.
Elliott led three laps in Sunday’s race en route to his second consecutive runner-up finish at Daytona. Dillon led seven laps en route to his best Daytona 500 finish since winning in 2018.
The Top 10 finishers were as follows: Michael McDowell, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain (career-best), Jamie McMurray, Corey LaJoie, Kyle Larson.
THROUGH THE FIELD
Cole Custer finished 11th as the last driver on the lead lap.
Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski finished 12th and 13th, respectively, after being involved in the final-lap wreck.
Keselowski received help from McDowell and made a move on Logano on the backstretch, which Logano blocked. Logano and Keselowski made contact. The contact set off a fiery multi-car wreck that also collected Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace, Austin Cindric and Cole Custer.
Defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric finished 15th in his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
Bubba Wallace led one lap and finished 17th, two laps down, in his first race for 23XI Racing. Wallace pitted from 11th on Lap 178 with a vibration, which put him a lap down and took him out of contention for the win.
Chase Briscoe finished 19th in his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
Josh Bilicki finished a career-high 24th.
Kaz Grala finished 28th and led 10 laps in his NASCAR Cup Series debut, which ended on Lap 115 after a wheel bearing went up in flames under caution.
Anthony Alfredo finished 32nd in his Cup debut, only completing 14 laps after getting in a multi-car wreck on Lap 14.
The race started with Alex Bowman on the pole in his first race driving the No. 48 car. Bowman led the first lap before Kevin Harvick took the lead.
The first caution fell on Lap 4 for Derrike Cope hitting the wall with a blown right-front tire in turn four. Cope retired from the race, finishing 40th.
The second caution of the race was arguably the most significant in the progression of the race as, on Lap 15, Christopher Bell spun Aric Almirola into the outside backstretch wall in front of the field.
Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Anthony Alfredo, Matt DiBenedetto, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, David Ragan, Ryan Newman and Erik Jones were taken out of the race due to the incident. Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Kurt Busch were also involved but continued in the race.
Under caution, the race was red-flagged for lightning, which turned into a 5+ hour rain delay.
The race resumed after a 15-lap caution but trouble struck again on Lap 39 when the third caution came out. Quin Houff cut a tire down after hitting debris from William Byron’s car, causing him to spin and the wall in a wreck that took him out and involved Chase Briscoe.
Stage One brought out the fourth caution on Lap 65.
The Top 10 stage finishers were as follows: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Preece, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Cole Custer.
The fifth caution of the race flew on Lap 113 after Christopher Bell cut down a left-rear tire. Bell got loose and tapped Ricky Stenhouse Jr, causing the two drivers to spin on the backstretch along with Jamie McMurray. Kyle Larson was also collected after making contact with Stenhouse and hitting the wall.
Stage Two brought out the sixth caution on Lap 130.
The Top 10 stage finishers were as follows: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski.
In the final flag, the race went green nearly the entire way, with Denny Hamlin leading 38 consecutive laps to start the run. However, the Toyotas made green flag stops after the Chevrolets and Fords, which caused Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Bubba Wallace to fall back. This gave the lead to Joey Logano, who cycled out as the race leader after stops concluded.
On the final lap, Brad Keselowski attempted a move on Joey Logano that went wrong, setting off a multi-car wreck in turn 3 that Michael McDowell avoided en route to his first Cup win.
In total, there were seven cautions for 40 laps and 22 lead changes among 13 drivers: Denny Hamlin (98 laps led), Christopher Bell (32), Joey Logano (26), Kevin Harvick (17), Kaz Grala (10), Austin Dillon (7), Chase Elliott (3), Austin Cindric (2), Michael McDowell (1), Kyle Larson (1), Cole Custer (1), Bubba Wallace (1), Alex Bowman (1).
Denny Hamlin leads the NASCAR Cup Series points by four over Austin Dillon. The next NASCAR Cup Series is February 21 at the Daytona road course (3 p.m. EST; TV: FOX, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).