The 2021 Daytona 500 has come and gone. A champion has been crowned and in classic Daytona fashion, it came down to the final two corners. Michael McDowell powered through to get his first career win! This season’s opener checked all the boxes for a good race on paper. Unfortunately though, with an early wreck involving 16 contenders in the first stage and what felt like an endless rain delay, the race left a lot to be desired.
Tribute for Dale SR. on Lap Three
On the third lap of the 500 crew members, announcers, and fans both at the track and at home raised up three fingers in tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt. A loss that shook the NASCAR community to its core as one the best to ever do it was taken at the very track they raced on. FOX also showed segments where Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about the legacy that Dale Sr. left and how his passing still resonates with the racing community 20 years later.
The Big One at Lap 14?
16 drivers were involved in the wreck on lap 14. The majority of the drivers in the wreck ended up having to retire their cars. Drivers like Alex Bowman (48) and Aric Almirola (10) had their days cut short after showing fast times during practice and qualifying. Other drivers who had to retire were Ryan Newman (6), Erik Jones (43), David Ragan (36), Daniel Suarez (99), Matt DiBenedetto (21), Anthony Alfredo (38), Chris Buescher (17), and Ryan Blaney (12).
The remaining drivers involved in the wreck managed to maintain minimum speed for most of the remaining of the race. Those drivers include Christopher Bell (20), Martin Truex Jr. (19), Kurt Busch (1), Tyler Reddick (8), William Byron (24), and Jamie McMurray (77).
Five Hour Rain Delay
A red flag for lightning in the area led to a lengthy five-hour rain delay. Patient fans and drivers were then rewarded with a fun-filled stage two and three of single-file racing! The top line around the track showed superiority throughout both of the duels. So it came as no surprise to see it happen in the biggest race of the week.
The teams who looked strong throughout the race were the Gibbs cars. Most ran up front for a solid portion of the race. Primarily Denny Hamlin (11) who won the first two stages and led the majority of the final stage before pitting and falling back. Bubba Wallace (23) showed a strong performance running in his first points race with his new team. Unfortunately, a loose tire ended his day late in the race as he had to pit a second time, dropping him a lap down.
McDowell Clinches First Career Win!
The final lap of the race caused many fans to hold their breath. Michael McDowell (34), who was running in third on the backstretch had a huge run going into turn three. He ended up giving Brad Keselowski (2) a bigger bump than what he was probably expecting. This caused Keselowski to lose control and get into Joey Logano (22) who was leading. Keselowski shot up the track, leaving Kyle Busch (18) and Austin Cindric (33) nowhere to go.
The end of the race has caused some controversy among fans with some saying McDowell wrecked Logano and Keselowski to win. While others believe that it was just a racing incident. Personally, I feel like McDowell did nothing wrong. It was the last lap of the Daytona 500. Everything goes out the window when the white flag flies.
Other than the last few laps of each stage and the green flag pit stops, the race itself was rather anticlimactic. The side-by-side racing that many fans are used to at the big 2.5 mile superspeedways just wasn’t there. Passing was made almost impossible due to the top line being so dominant. Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of things to come for what NASCAR is labeling “The Best Season Ever”.