Denny Hamlin didn’t three-peat, a rookie didn’t steal the win, but Michael McDowell got his first Cup Series win in 358 starts. This also puts him in the playoffs, which is another first, as he has never finished higher than 23rd in points. McDowell was also just one in eight drivers who won their first Cup Series race at the Daytona 500. So what does it take to win the 500? It takes a little bit of luck and a lot of skill. You have to survive the race and put yourself in a position to win, and McDowell did just that.
Daytona is known for “the big one” which can easily take out half the field. This year this happened twice, and McDowell made it through both times. That sometimes take both luck and skill.
On Lap 14 Christopher Bell got into the back of Aric Amirola, which sent Amirola into the wall. This made for a 16 car pileup. Other drivers involved in this crash included Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, David Ragan, Anthony Alfredo, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman, Jamie McMurray, and Daniel Suarez. Only four cars were able to continue racing after this crash. Busch, Reddick, Truex, and McMurray were able to get back on the track but only McMurray remained competitive.
On the final lap Penske teammates Joey Logan and Brad Keselowski triggered a fiery crash which involved other high-profile drivers such as Kyle Busch and Bubba Wallace. McDowell was able to skate through the crash and win The Great American Race!
While Michael McDowell definitely took the spotlight, Spire Motorsports also shined at the Daytona 500. Both Jamie McMurray, driving the #77, and Cory LaJoie, driving the #7, had top 10 finishes, coming in 8th and 9th respectively. McMurray also ran the fastest lap, while LaJoie ran the second fastest.
And this is just the beginning folks. There are 25 more races before the playoffs start, and McDowell is already locked in. Next week drivers head back to Daytona for the Road Course, which is where The Clash was held last week. Who will be the victor next week?