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Daytona 500: Michael McDowell takes checkered flag

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Michael McDowell was glued to Brad Keselowski’s bumper, watching and ready for his likelihood to win the Daytona 500.

Joey Logano was the chief, the laps had been winding down and but nobody had the nerve to drag out of site visitors. McDowell was sure Keselowski would go for it will definitely, and when he did, McDowell would play his hand.

On the ultimate lap, Keselowski tried to dart round Logano, however Logano threw a block on his teammate that crashed them each. McDowell stayed proper the place he was, flat within the gasoline, and drove via a crash scene for a surprising upset.

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“I knew he would go for a race-winning transfer and my plan was to let him make that transfer,” McDowell stated. “I knew I didn’t wish to make my transfer too early, so I used to be dedicated to the (Keselowski) bumper and when he made the transfer, the opening opened up.”

A 100-1 underdog when the race started Sunday afternoon, McDowell gained for the primary time in 358 Cup begins when the checkered flag lastly flew about quarter-hour after midnight. The race was stopped by rain for nearly six hours and ended 9 hours after the inexperienced flag waved at Daytona Worldwide Speedway.

Michael McDowell celebrates after profitable the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona Worldwide Speedway, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Daytona Seashore, Fla. (AP Picture/John Raoux)

“There’s been a number of years the place I used to be questioning what the heck am I doing and why am I doing it?” McDowell stated. “I all the time knew if I simply stored grinding that sooner or later every little thing will line up and go proper.”

NASCAR’s season opener was stacked with storylines. Denny Hamlin was making an attempt for a file third-consecutive Daytona 500 victory, and the crew he began with Michael Jordan was debuting with driver Bubba Wallace.

Kyle Larson was again after almost a yr in exile for utilizing a racial slur, and reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott was going for his first Daytona 500 win.

And all the best way in the back of the sector, 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope made what he stated can be his ultimate NASCAR begin. At 62 he was the oldest driver within the discipline, and his upset victory 31 years in the past was thought of the largest in race historical past.

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McDowell did not take that title from Cope, partly as a result of McDowell is a robust superspeedway racer able to mixing it up with the standard suspects. If he may ever discover himself in the correct place on the proper time, McDowell figured he may steal a win.

“It has been a troublesome street for me. I’ve had to spend so much of years grinding it out,” McDowell stated. His profession has been stabilized by 4 seasons driving for Entrance Row Motorsports, a tiny crew within the Ford household that may maintain its personal at Daytona.

McDowell was within the combine even earlier than the 2 Penske automobiles derailed the end. His Ford was sturdy sufficient to push Keselowski, and McDowell figured with the checkered flag in sight, he’d attempt to move Keselowski as they exited the ultimate flip.

Logano’s block of Keselowski — it appeared late, Keselowski had already began to drag alongside his teammate — triggered a fiery multi-car pileup that was in McDowell’s rearview mirror.

“Brad was turning proper, Joey was turning left and I went proper via the center,” McDowell stated. “It is simply type of a blur from there.”

Keselowski subtly blamed Logano for the messy end.

“I needed to make the move to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up actually unhealthy,” Keselowski stated. “I don’t really feel like I made a mistake, however I can’t drive all people else’s automobile. So irritating.”

Logano had no rationalization for the ending.

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“Pandemonium, I assume. Chaos struck,” stated Logano, who then praised McDowell. “It’s an actual bummer that not one of the Penske automobiles gained, however not less than a Ford gained and I’m actually glad for McDowell.

“If we couldn’t win, I’m actually glad to see McDowell win this factor.”

McDowell, who led lower than half of a lap, drag-raced Elliott and Austin Dillon till NASCAR lastly known as a warning.

A batch of stable contenders had been knocked from the race simply 15 laps in by a 16-car accident that started on the entrance of the sector. It thinned the pack and arrange a showdown between Kevin Harvick and Hamlin.

Hamlin and Harvick had the 2 finest automobiles however pit technique ended Hamlin’s shot at profitable a file third consecutive Daytona 500. The Ford drivers pitted first as a gaggle, adopted by the Chevrolets a lap later and eventually the Toyotas.

However the Toyota group has simply 5 automobiles they usually could not group again collectively to reclaim management of the race. It put Logano, Keselowski and the Ford drivers out entrance, and Logano led the ultimate 25 laps till Keselowski made his transfer.

McDowell held off Elliott and Dillon. Harvick completed fourth, and Hamlin was fifth after main a race-high 98 laps.

Solely 11 automobiles completed on the lead lap.

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