Penske drivers crash out of lead handing Daytona 500 win to McDowell

2nd place #2 Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski had a run on leader #22 Joey Logano’s Penske Ford on the final lap, in the final turn, of the Daytona 500.  But when Logano moved down to block his teammate, the two crashed hard and #34 Front Row Motorsports Ford driver Michael McDowell squeezed through the gap to win the Daytona 500, his first-ever NASCAR Cup win.

McDowell, who led only the last of The Great American Race’s 200 laps, started his career as an IndyCar driver for Paul Gentilozzi’s Champ Car team. He move to NASCAR after one year and spent many years in NASCAR working hard to get with a winning team, and it finally paid off after 357 winless starts.

“I can’t believe it,” McDowell said. “I’ve got to thank God. So many years of just grinding it out, hoping for an opportunity like this. I’ve got to thank (team owner) Bob Jenkins for giving me this opportunity. I’m so thankful. 

“What a great way to get a first victory—in the Daytona 500!”

Michael McDowell with his Champ Car IndyCar in 2005. He moved to NASCAR when he realized there was no money to be made driving IndyCars after Tony George destroyed the sport. He joins Mario Andretti, and AJ Foyt  as the 3rd IndyCar driver to ever win the Daytona 500.
Michael McDowell gets first-ever NASCAR Cup Series win – James Gilbert/Getty Images
Michael McDowell celebrates winning the Daytona 500

Chevy drivers Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon came home 2nd and 3rd with Kevin Harvick fourth and Denny Hamlin closing out the top five.

“I don’t think it was very close,” said Elliott.  “I kind of got next to him and I saw the lights come on, so I knew it was over right then. Just a huge thanks to NAPA, Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I felt like we had a fast car. We weren’t as good as I thought we were on Thursday. I felt like we did a really good job executing today. Staying out of trouble – that’s not something I’ve done a very good job of here in this race, so I’m glad we could at least finish this one and have something to build on for when we come back and try to do better.”

Defending NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, races to a second place finish Sunday, February 14, 2021 during a rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

“Yeah, you know you’ve just got to be thankful to be around at those moments at the end,” said Dillon. “I pulled out to see if the bottom would work and just didn’t get enough of a run. It was close. I’ve got to thank all my sponsors like Bass Pro Shops and everybody that helps this program. We were here all weekend scoring points and that’s all I can ask for. Our team worked hard in the off-season with ECR power. What can I say? Chevy was really close. I had fun working with my guys tonight in the Chevy camp.”

Defending NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE,  Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Nations Guard Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Ryan Preece, driver of the #37 Cottonelle JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. (Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Hamlin took the lead in the second stage after a cycle of green-flag pit stops and held it through the fifth caution of the race, which waved when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell cut a left rear tire and spun into the Chevrolet of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

At that point, Hamlin had led 58 laps, bringing his total of laps led in the Daytona 500 to 434, fifth-all-time and one ahead of Bobby Allison. Hamlin had led 34 consecutive laps to win Stage 1 after racing resumed on Sunday night. He finished with a race-high 98 laps led.

“I didn’t see (what happened at the end), I was too far back,” said Hamlin.

“We didn’t execute too good on pit road. It was just like the 125 (Duel race). We came out in front of everybody, and didn’t have any help to get up to speed. They all blew by us because they were single file, so it just took away the power that I got and that’s getting through traffic. The fact we came back to fifth there from 12th on the last couple of laps is pretty good. Dominant car.”

On Lap 14, before a long rain delay, off-center contact from Bell’s Toyota to the rear bumper of Aric Almirola’s Ford sent Almirola spinning near the front of the field, triggering a massive 16-car pile-up that inexorably altered the complexion of the race.

We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Almirola said. “It’s a long, long race. Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three, and the 20 (Bell) just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”

Collected in the wreck were: Ryan Newman, making his first Daytona 500 start since the devastating last-lap wreck that put him in the hospital a year ago; Erik Jones, in his first start in a points race for his new team, Richard Petty Motorsports; Daniel Suarez, in his first run with newly formed Trackhouse Racing, a joint venture between Justin Marks and rapper Pitbull; and pole winner Alex Bowman, whose No. 48 Chevrolet was wiped out when Almirola shot up the track into the side of his car and rammed it into the wall.

Lap 14 wreck. Photo by Getty Images for NASCAR

“It looks like the No. 10 (Almirola) kind of got turned sideways there, and I was the guy that got ran into,” Bowman said after an obligatory trip to the infield care center. “Bummer – I hate it for (sponsor) Ally. Obviously, we had a really fast Camaro. The Chevrolets 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.”

Also heavily damaged in the melee were the cars of William Byron, Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, David Ragan, Jamie McMurray and Matt DiBenedetto. To add insult to injury, nearby lightning strikes delayed the restart of the race, and heavy rains followed shortly thereafter.

Five hours and 40 minutes later, after the rain abated and the track dried, engines were re-fired at 9:07 p.m., and the race resumed with 24 cars on the lead lap.

Last lap wreck. #22 Logano was leading going into Turn 3 on the last lap but he and his #2 Penske teammate Keselowski got together and caused this massive wreck. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Ten of the 40 drivers were sidelined by a massive 16-car wreck on Lap 14, triggered by Christopher Bell’s nudge of Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford at the end of the backstretch. Top qualifiers Alex Bowman and William Byron were collected, as were several others as the pack skidded into Turn 3.

Michael McDowell and his Daytona 500 ring


Seven drivers were unable to continue; three teams were done for the day after the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) crash clock expired during their repairs.

The race was red-flagged for 5 hours, 40 minutes with 15 laps complete after rain and lightning hit the 2.5-mile track Sunday afternoon. The race resumed under green-flag conditions on Lap 30 at 9:34 p.m. ET, leading to an early Monday morning finish.

“I had a run down the backstretch and everybody was kind of checking up in the middle so I went high to go around the outside,” said Kyle Busch.

“I figured guys would kind of blend back to the high side and the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car just landed on my hood. Came out of nowhere. Unfortunately,  got caught up in the wreck and banged up pretty good. Took a couple good licks, but just a matter of plate racing, I guess. For as far back as we were and what was happening, I don’t  think we would have won.

“I think we probably would have been maybe fourth or fifth so that’s about all we were going to get anyways. Just unfortunate day for the M&M’s Camry.  Hate it for my guys. It seemed like every time the points were being paid, we stumbled. First stage we went from second to outside the top-10 and then the second stage, we went from third to ninth. Then there at the end obviously, I felt like we had a top-five and finished 14th looking at the board there. Just a dismal day at Daytona, as usual.”

 “It’s to be expected. It was just a matter of time before it all breaks loose and whatever happens, happens. I saw a window to the outside and all of a sudden I had the 2 (Brad Keselowski) on my hood. I don’t know.

“I felt like those guys were going to get bogged down on the bottom so I was trying to shoot for the top and get a run on the outside of them. That’s typically where everybody was going all night long and hopefully get a run off of (turn) four. I was just trying to shoot for a top-five. We were too far back to make anything happen for a win. We got clobbered there a few times obviously, and just fortunate that I’m all good. Our M&M’s Camry – that one won’t live on for another day, but hopefully, we will be back here next week and have a better go around on the road course and get back after it.”

In his first points race for the new 23XI Racing team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, Bubba Wallace ran near the front of the pack throughout the race but lost a lap with an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration on Lap 178 of 200. Wallace was caught up in the last-lap wreck and finished 17th…  Kyle Larson ran 10th in his first trip in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet… Austin Cindric’s strong Cup debut ended in the last-lap wreck that claimed three Team Penske cars… Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain, Jamie McMurray and Corey LaJoie claimed the sixth through ninth finishing positions, respectively.


Pos Str No. Driver Team Behind Laps Status Led
1 17 34 Michael McDowell Love’s Travel Stops Ford 0.000s 200 Running 1
2 12 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 0.070 200 Running 3
3 4 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet 0.071 200 Running 7
4 8 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Light #TheCrew Ford 0.409 200 Running 17
5 25 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Toyota 0.410 200 Running 98
6 11 37 * Ryan Preece Cottonelle Chevrolet 5.184 200 Running 0
7 34 42 Ross Chastain Clover Chevrolet 5.185 200 Running 0
8 19 77 Jamie McMurray AdventHealth Chevrolet 14.630 200 Running 0
9 16 7 Corey LaJoie Youtheory Chevrolet 14.924 200 Running 0
10 13 5 Kyle Larson Nations Guard Chevrolet 23.855 200 Running 1
11 27 41 Cole Custer Ford 30.656 200 Running 1
12 9 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 199 Accident 26
13 24 2 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Ford 0.120 199 Accident 0
14 10 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Toyota 0.403 199 Accident 0
15 39 33 * Austin Cindric(i) Verizon 5G Ford 1.435 199 Accident 2
16 5 20 Christopher Bell DEWALT Toyota -1Lap 199 Running 32
17 6 23 Bubba Wallace DoorDash Toyota -2 198 Accident 1
18 21 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kroger/NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet -2 198 Running 0
19 30 14 Chase Briscoe # Ford -3 197 Running 0
20 28 53 Joey Gase Page Construction Ford -4 196 Running 0
21 35 51 Cody Ware Nurtec ODT Chevrolet -4 196 Running 0
22 20 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet -5 195 Running 0
23 38 78 BJ McLeod(i) NASCAR Heat 5 Ford -5 195 Running 0
24 37 52 Josh Bilicki Wisconsin Lighting Lab Ford -6 194 Running 0
25 26 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota -7 193 Running 0
26 2 24 William Byron Axalta Chevrolet -9 191 Running 0
27 29 8 Tyler Reddick Lenovo Chevrolet -12 188 Running 0
28 40 16 * Kaz Grala Hyper Ice Chevrolet -85 115 DVP 10
29 33 00 Quin Houff Mane ‘n Tail Chevrolet -163 37 Accident 0
30 14 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Blue DEF/PEAK Ford -186 14 Accident 0
31 22 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford -186 14 DVP 0
32 36 38 Anthony Alfredo # Speedy Cash Ford -186 14 DVP 0
33 23 21 Matt DiBenedetto Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford -186 14 DVP 0
34 3 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford -187 13 Accident 0
35 1 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet -187 13 Accident 1
36 15 99 Daniel Suarez iFly Chevrolet -187 13 Accident 0
37 18 36 * David Ragan Select Blinds Ford -187 13 Accident 0
38 7 6 Ryan Newman Kohler Generators Ford -187 13 Accident 0
39 31 43 Erik Jones Armor All Chevrolet -187 13 Accident 0
40 32 15 Derrike Cope Jacob Companies Chevrolet -197 3 Accident 0

# Denotes Rookie
(i) Not Eligible For Points
(*) Required To Qualify On Time

Average Speed of Race Winner:  144.416 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 44 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 40 laps.

Lead Changes:  22 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Bowman 1;K. Harvick 2-17;*. Grala 18-27;C. Elliott 28-29;A. Dillon 30;C. Custer 31;D. Hamlin 32-71;*. Cindric(i) 72-73;D. Hamlin 74;C. Bell 75-106;A. Dillon 107-108;C. Elliott 109;K. Larson 110;D. Hamlin 111-117;J. Logano 118;K. Harvick 119;D. Hamlin 120-128;B. Wallace 129;D. Hamlin 130-132;A. Dillon 133-136;D. Hamlin 137-174;J. Logano 175-199;M. McDowell 200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin 6 times for 98 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 32 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 26 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 17 laps; * Kaz Grala 1 time for 10 laps; Austin Dillon 3 times for 7 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 3 laps; * Austin Cindric(i) 1 time for 2 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 lap; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 1 lap; Cole Custer 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,37,3,5,33,20,23,22,42,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,4,23,9,3,22,34,5,18,2