DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Michael McDowell scored his first victory in a Monday morning finish to the 63rd running of the Daytona 500, missing a final-lap crash to kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with a triumph in stock-car racing’s most prestigious race.
McDowell led only the last of The Great American Race’s 200 laps, avoiding a last-lap collision between Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski for the lead at Daytona International Speedway. It marked the first win of the Front Row Motorsports driver’s Cup Series career, after a span of 357 winless starts.
Chase Elliott came home second with Austin Dillon third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Denny Hamlin closing out the top five.
Coming to the white flag, Ford had the top-four spots locked down before the final push to the finish sent Keselowski into the rear of Logano, triggering a fiery multi-car wreck to close the night.
Ten of the 40 drivers who started the race 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.
Seven drivers were unable to continue and three teams were done for the day after the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) crash clock expired during their repairs, including the Fords of Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Anthony Alfredo, Matt DiBenedetto, Aric Almirola, David Ragan and Ryan Newman.
The race was red-flagged for 5 hours, 40 minutes with 15 laps complete after rain and lightning hit the 2.5-mile track. The race resumed under green-flag conditions on Lap 30 at 9:34 p.m. ET, leading to an early Monday morning finish.
The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race is scheduled for Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) at Daytona’s 3.61-mile road-course layout.
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st - Michael McDowell
2nd - Chase Elliott
3rd - Austin Dillon
4th - Kevin Harvick
5th - Denny Hamlin
6th - Ryan Preece
7th - Ross Chastain
8th - Jamie McMurray
9th - Corey LaJoie
10th - Kyle Larson
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th -- Cole Custer
12th -- Joey Logano
13th -- Brad Keselowski
15th -- Austin Cindric
19th -- Chase Briscoe
20th -- Joey Gase
23rd -- BJ McLeod
24th -- Josh Bilicki
30th -- Ryan Blaney
31st -- Chris Buescher
32nd -- Anthony Alfredo
33rd -- Matt DiBenedetto
34th -- Aric Almirola
37th -- David Ragan
38th -- Ryan Newman
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang
“I just can’t believe it. I’ve just got to thank God. So many years just grinding it out and hoping for an opportunity like this. I’ve got to thank Love’s Travel Stops, Speedco, Bob Jenkins for giving me this opportunity. I’m so thankful. Such a great way to get a first victory -- a Daytona 500. Are you kidding me? I just want to say hi to my wife back home. Happy Valentine’s Day. I know it’s been a tough week. My kids, I love you guys. I wish they could be here with me to celebrate. Maybe NASCAR will send a plane to bring them down here, but we’re the Daytona 500 champions. Thank you Doug Yates, Ford. We had our Ford partners at the end and they all crashed, but luckily I was able to make it through. I’m just so thankful. God is good.”
“I just can’t believe it. The only thing I can think of is just God is so good. For so many years I’ve just been grinding it out trying to stay in this sport. Bob Jenkins gave me a great opportunity to go full-time in a competitive car and Drew Blickensderfer and my whole entire team we’ve been working so hard for years to get into this position and I’m so thankful to Love’s Travel Stops and Speeco and Ford, Doug Yates. All of my Ford partners out there, we had a good plan coming to the white and unfortunately Joey and Brad got together and the hole opened up. I just can’t believe it. I’m so thankful. It’s amazing.”
HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE LAST PIT STOP?
“It was the race. We knew it was and it always comes down to that green flag stop. If you speed, you make a mistake, you slide the tires, your day is done. We just executed perfectly. We left together. Brad and I left together hooked up on bumpers and we were able to get some good speed and when the Toyotas and Chevys joined the track we had so much momentum we were able to keep the lead. It’s unbelievable. I just can’t believe I won the Daytona 500. This is amazing.”
DRIVE US DOWN THE BACKSTRETCH. YOU WERE THIRD.
“My plan was to stick to the 2 car. I knew he would go for a race-winning move and my plan was to let him make that move and then coming off of four try to get to his outside or inside. I knew I didn’t want to make my move too early, so I was committed to the 2 car’s bumper and when he made the move, the hole opened up. It’s just unbelievable.”
DOES THIS MATCH THE DREAM?
“It does, but whether I win this race or not it’s not what defines you. It’s unbelievable and I’m so thankful, but I’m thankful to have a happy, healthy family and a beautiful wife and a great family. Not everybody makes it to victory lane and for 14 years I didn’t, so just to be here now is just so amazing.”
MARK RUSHBROOK, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports -- FROM A STRATEGY STANDPOINT THE FORD TEAMS PITTED FIRST AND IT WORKED OUT. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT.
“That was our manufacturer strategy. The teams communicated and pitted together, which was the key to the race. We couldn’t have asked for a better position to be in than when then they came off pit road and all five of them were at the front of the field. That put them all in position to win.”
IT’S A GOOD THING TO HAVE THOSE FIVE FORDS AT THE FRONT, BUT YOU ALSO KNOW ALL FIVE WANT TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AT THAT POINT?
“We knew there was going to be a run coming from somebody. Certainly, each of the Fords wanted to win and that’s what we saw as all of our guys were battling each other as well as trying to hold off the Chevys and Toyotas. Unfortunately, Brad and Joey got together, but McDowell was there to get the win. That’s why we have all of the Fords work together and had them in front.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang
“I had a big run down the backstretch and wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad. I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car, so frustrating. The Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position and right then we were in position. It’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light #TheCrew Ford Mustang -- TAKE ME THROUGH YOUR LAST COUPLE LAPS.
“Brad just dropped way back and tried to stuff it in there and then everybody scattered, just trying to hope that you get the right push or push somebody. It was a really good Busch Light Ford Mustang and just came up a little bit short.”
YOU WERE IN POSITION AND THINGS DIDN’T WORK OUT.
“Yeah, Brad laid way back there and got a run on the inside and then at that point when it scatters you hope that you get a push or you can wind up in the right spot and I just wound up in a spot that finished fourth. We had a great Busch Light Ford Mustang all night. We were able to position ourselves up front. It was kind of a weird race the way it would all single-file out and then you kind of scatter there a lap or two at the end and see where it all played out.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang -- YOU WERE IN THE LEAD AND THEN WHAT?
“Pandemonium, I guess. Chaos struck. The 2 kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of the 34 and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot. It’s a real bummer that none of the Penske cars won, but at least a Ford won and I’m really happy for McDowell. I hate that we didn’t win with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. I feel like we had a great shot being where we were and leading on the last lap, but if we couldn’t win I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person, a good leader in life and has helped me a lot in my life, so it’s very cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang
“We were just getting pushed too hard too early. 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 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.”
ARE YOU OK?
RYAN NEWMAN, No. 6 Kohler Generators Ford Mustang
“Somebody crashed in the outside row in front of us and we had nowhere to go and I got hit from some place. I had the wreck missed, but got hit from some place and that was the end of our day. I just feel bad for Kohler Generators jumping on board and getting wrecked out of the Daytona 500 so early, but unfortunately that’s part of racing. I just wish we could have had some better results.”
DAVID RAGAN, No. 36 Select Blinds Ford Mustang
"It’s just unfortunate to have a bunch of tore up race cars that early. I’ve never met a driver that said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna start this 500-mile race and just be super-aggressive.’ We all talk about give and take and making it to the end, but it seems nobody does that once they get out there. It’s frustrating that everybody is pushing and shoving and I just saw the 48 get turned and whenever someone wrecks in the top five or six it tears up a lot of cars.”