McDowell escapes final lap carnage to win Daytona 500

Harold Hinson/Motorsport Images

McDowell escapes final lap carnage to win Daytona 500

NASCAR

McDowell escapes final lap carnage to win Daytona 500

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The seas parted going into Turn 3 on the final lap of the Daytona 500, and Michael McDowell emerged as the winner of the rain-delayed “Great American Race.”

McDowell shot through the middle as Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano wrecked in front of him. Keselowski was shot to the outside wall while Logano spun to the inside. The race ended under caution with McDowell declared the winner over Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.

“I just can’t believe it,” said McDowell. “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 (team owner) 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.”

The victory is McDowell’s first in the NASCAR Cup Series in 358 starts.

Kevin Harvick finished fourth, and Denny Hamlin finished fifth. Ryan Preece finished sixth, Ross Chastain seventh, Jamie McMurray eighth, Corey LaJoie ninth, and Kyle Larson 10th.

Hamlin led a race-high 98 laps, but he, along with the other Toyotas, were shuffled from the front of the field after the final round of green-flag pit stops when the Fords and Chevrolets were able to leapfrog them by pitting earlier. Hamlin and his teammates were also disconnected coming off pit road.

McDowell led one lap in his win.

No drivers were injured in the last-lap accident. Keselowski was hit in the right-side door at full speed by Kyle Busch, resulting in a fireball around the cars. Also collected were Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece, Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Keselowski jumped from fourth to second with two laps to go. Having hung back to get a run, Keselowski dove to the inside in Turn 3 and picked off two spots with McDowell following him through. On the final lap, Keselowski got a shove from McDowell going into Turn 3 and thought he was in a position to win his first Daytona 500.

“Had the run, made the move, and it didn’t work out,” said Keselowski.

McDowell gives Front Row Motorsports its third win in the NASCAR Cup Series. All three have come with a different driver – David Ragan won at Talladega in 2013 and Chris Buescher at Pocono in 2016.

With the win, McDowell clinches a spot in the playoffs.

“My plan was to stick to the 2 car,” said McDowell of Keselowski. “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 (Turn) 4, 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.”

 RESULTS:

1. (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 200.

2. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.

3. (4) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.

4. (8) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.

5. (25) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.

6. (11) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 200.

7. (34) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 200.

8. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200.

9. (16) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 200.

10. (13) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.

11. (27) Cole Custer, Ford, 200.

12. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 199.

13. (24) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 199.

14. (10) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 199.

15. (39) Austin Cindric(i), Ford, Accident, 199.

16. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 199.

17. (6) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 198.

18. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 198.

19. (30) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 197.

20. (28) Joey Gase, Ford, 196.

21. (35) Cody Ware, Chevrolet, 196.

22. (20) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 195.

23. (38) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 195.

24. (37) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 194.

25. (26) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 193.

26. (2) William Byron, Chevrolet, 191.

27. (29) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 188.

28. (40) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, DVP, 115.

29. (33) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Accident, 37.

30. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 14.

31. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, DVP, 14.

32. (36) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, DVP, 14.

33. (23) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, DVP, 14.

34. (3) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 13.

35. (1) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.

36. (15) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.

37. (18) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 13.

38. (7) Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 13.

39. (31) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 13.

40. (32) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Accident, 3.

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

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