DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Michael McDowell stormed through a crash scene to win the Daytona 500, snapping an 0-for-357 streak with a fiery pileup in his rearview mirror.
McDowell led just the final lap – maybe half of it, really – when Brad Keselowski turned teammate Joey Logano as the Team Penske drivers jockeyed for the victory.
McDowell stayed flat on the gas and plowed past the two spinning cars to the lead, then won a three-wide drag race until NASCAR threw a race-ending caution.
It was mayhem behind McDowell as a huge pack of cars could not avoid Keselowski and Logano. The collisions were one on top of another, flames erupting all over Daytona International Speedway as the race came to a close early Monday morning, nearly nine hours after it began.
McDowell, a 36-year-old journeyman from Arizona, was a 100-1 underdog at the start of the race and seemed in disbelief after taking his first checkered flag.
“So many years just grinding it out hoping for an opportunity like this,” McDowell said. “We’re the Daytona 500 champions. I cannot believe this. Luckily was able to make it through.”
A rain delay of almost six hours pushed the race into the night and under the lights, albeit without almost half the field. A 16-car accident just 15 laps into the race – moments before the rain – thinned the contenders and set up a showdown between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin and Harvick had the two best cars but pit strategy ended Hamlin’s shot at winning a record third-consecutive Daytona 500.
Reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finished second and 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon was third. Harvick finished fourth, and Hamlin was fifth after leading a race-high 98 laps.
Keselowski said he has no regrets about the way he handled the final lap.
Keselowski made a huge run on Logano about a mile from the finish line. Keselowski tried to pass Logano on the low side, but Logano blocked him and ended up crashing both of them.
Kyle Busch slammed into the side of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, sending it spinning and hitting the wall again. Austin Cindric plowed into both, creating a brief explosion and fire. Each driver escaped unscathed.
“Had a big run down the backstretch, wanted the make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said. “Don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everyone else’s car. Frustrating. …
“We were in position. It’s exactly where I wanted to be – running second on the last lap of Daytona with this package. Had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
Wallace becomes 1st Black driver to lead lap at Daytona 500
Bubba Wallace ran into trouble early and late in his first Daytona 500 driving for Michael Jordan.
He still came out of NASCAR’s marquee race with another milestone, becoming the first Black driver to lead a lap in the Daytona 500.
Wallace dipped to the low line late in the second stage to grab the lead on lap 129 in the No. 23 Toyota. He lost the lead back to two-time defending champion Denny Hamlin — who co-owns 23XI with Jordan — and ran third at the end of the stage.
Wallace got caught up in a fiery, chaotic last lap and finished 17th .
Wallace was forced to pit with 22 laps left in the race because he felt a vibration in the Toyota. He fell a lap down and pushed Hamlin to give his boss and Toyota teammate a nudge toward another Daytona 500 championship.
Wallace finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500 for the highest finish in the race by a Black driver.
Wallace had a solid first two-thirds of the rain-delayed race at Daytona International Speedway after a tumultuous start in Jordan’s debut race.
Jordan’s No. 23 Toyota failed inspection twice before the race, prompting NASCAR to kick the team’s car chief out off the grounds.
The car passed on the third attempt, but had to start from the back of the field.
Jordan watched the beginning of the race from a luxury suite.
The six-time NBA champion had his first conversation with the 23XI crew chief when he called Mike Wheeler to find out why the team failed inspection.
This venture is no lark for Jordan. Jordan was a kid when his late father packed up the car and took the family to NASCAR races at Southern tracks like Daytona, Darlington Raceway and defunct Rockingham Speedway.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.