Michael McDowell won the rain-delayed Daytona 500 on Sunday, storming to an upset victory as a fiery last-lap crash unfolded in his rear view mirror.
McDowell, who only led the NASCAR Cup Series race in the final lap, emerged from a skidding pile-up to grab the lead and win a three-car sprint at the Florida track. It was his first win in the Series in 357 starts.
“So many years just grinding it out and hoping for an opportunity like this,” McDowell said.
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“Such a great way to get a first victory — a Daytona 500. Are you kidding me?”
Defending series champion Chase Elliott finished second while Austin Dillon came in third. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Hamlin led the 200-lap race at the Daytona International Speedway for 98 laps as he tried to become the first driver in history to win three straight Daytona 500s.
Bubba Wallace, who led for one lap, drove the 23XI team car owned by basketball superstar Michael Jordan and Hamlin which was making its debut.
Wallace finished in 17th place.
The race was delayed for five hours due to heavy rain, and the bad weather came after another dramatic wreck just 14 laps into the race.
The crash involved 16 cars and took out drivers including Martin Truex, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney. No one was seriously injured in the wrecks.
“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Stewart-Haas Racing’s Almirola said.
“It’s a long, long race.”
“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.”
Sports journalist Jon Alba lauded the safety measures in place, tweeting: “That a car can look like this and the driver can just walk out OK is mind-boggling. Amazing really.”