McDowell avoids a last-lap wreck to get the miraculous victory.
The time finally came for the biggest race in NASCAR – the Daytona 500. Despite the weather concerns, the racing got underway on time. However, the first caution was out quite quickly after the incident involving Derrike Cope and Bubba Wallace. The race was over for the 1990 Daytona 500 champion. Another incident occured on lap 14 and that was ‘a big one’. 16 cars were a part of it and the majority of them had to retire, including the polesitter Alex Bowman. Right after the wreck rain appeared on the track and the race was stopped. The red flag was out for 5 hours and 40 minutes.
After such a long weather delay, the racing restarted at the World Center of Racing. Another incident happened shortly after Quin Houff ran over some debris from William Byron’s car and punctured his tyre. Chase Briscoe was also involved. Denny Hamlin led the field at the restart and eventually went on to win stage 1 to start the title defense.
Denny Hamlin controlled everything in Stage 2. Though he was not in the lead for the entire stint, he was around the top 3 together with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell, who had a great run at that moment. Unfortunately for Bell, he was in a wreck in the middle of the stage together with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, and Jamie McMurray. Denny Hamlin got to the lead after the green-flag pit stop cycle. The no.11 car driver swept the mid-race stages and another win seemed to be not so far away.
The trend of the race was running single file and that was how things went for the majority of the final stage. The key moment came after the final pit stop cycle when the Ford cars got to the top of the pack. Joey Logano felt comfortable and was half a lap away from getting his second win in The Great American Race. Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski tried to make a move for the lead, but that ended up in a big wreck, involving several more cars. Michael McDowell, who had a great race, avoided it and was the leader at the moment the caution was out, which meant that the no.34 Front Row Motorsports driver won the 2021 Daytona 500, his maiden NASCAR Cup Series victory. The reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott was second, while the 2018 Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon finished third. The 2014 Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick and the 3-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin completed the top 5.
The top 20 of the 2021 Daytona 500:
|18||#47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet|