That was the craziest and quite frankly the weirdest Daytona 500s I have ever watched. From the 'big one' on lap 15 that took out 18 cars, to the 6 hour rain delay, to Kaz Grala's wheel just randomly catching on fire multiple times, to the crazy wreck at the finish, this one was a wild ride. To top off the craziness Michael McDowell gets his first career victory in 14 years of Cup series racing. Let's start with the wreck on lap 15.
Almirola gets pushed a little too hard from behind and goes flying up the track into Alex Bowman. A whole group of cars are collected and a number of contenders have their hopes of winning this years 500 crushed. Several cars like the 12 of Blaney would've survived this crash had the infield not been a total mud-pit. Blaney suffered minimal damage before he was forced into the grass and had his whole front end get caught and ripped under the car. I was surprised to see the guys pushing so hard this early on in the race, but with the weather looming I guess they were all trying to get into the best position possible for when the rain started. This wreck was on Kyle Busch. He pushed Christopher Bell way too hard and sent him flying into the back of Almirola. As it typically goes in Daytona crashes, the perp gets out of it without any damage, and the innocent drivers are the ones who end up in the garage.
While we were under the red flag for the cleanup of that crash, we moved to black flag conditions due to lightning in the area. Then all hell broke loose when the rain moved in. We battled mother nature off and on for the next 6 hours. Luckily by 9 the track was mostly dried up, the forecast was clear, and NASCAR gave the green light to finish the race at night. I prefer a daytime Daytona with the final laps coming as the sun sets over Daytona Beach, but I know many people who like the race better under the lights. Under the lights makes it feel too much like the Summer race at Daytona rather than the 500 for me, but to each their own.
The racing was relatively uneventful from here on out till the finish. Lots of single file racing with some double file stuff popping up as drivers made a run at the end of each stage. Christopher Bell blew a tire at one point and took out 2 or 3 cars, but other than that nothing too major.
Kaz Grala rolled around the track for a lap with his rear tire on fire. Officials extinguished it on pit road and he drove off only to have the fire start back up again halfway around the track. I've seen fires in this area before, but never to this extent. The best part about this is his sponsor was Hyperice. The Hyperice car was literally on fire.
Flash forward to the crucial green flag pitstops with about 25 laps left. The Fords executed their stop better than the Chevies and Toyotas. This put them at the front of the line and ultimately got them the win at the end. The ending was wild.
Chaos. I was pissed. I had money on Joey to win and Brad to finish top 3. There they were running 1,2 on the final lap. It was going beautifully. I was already smelling my money. But I can't have nice things and they do what Penske drivers do best, wreck their teammates with the race on the line. To be fair this was neither of their faults. Brad got a hard push from McDowell and had no choice but to make a move on Joey with it. Joey tries to put a little block on him cause you know, he wants to win the Daytona 500. Unfortunately Brad catches Joeys corner and the rest is history. What a demolition derby there. Brad is in the fence, Kyle gets plowed into on the driver door, and the ensuing fireball engulfs multiple cars. I dare anyone to say NASCAR is boring and just a bunch of cars going around in circles after watching that. To put it in perspective those guys were just competing to win Nascar's version of the Super Bowl and next thing they knew, on the final lap they were in the wall, the fence, and engulfed in flames.
Michael McDowell ended up winning the race under caution thanks to that, but he would've won anyway because he won the race back to the line. It's his first win in 14 seasons in the Cup series and that's awesome. He finally broke through and he did it on the sports biggest stage. Awesome win for a smaller team in Front Row Motorsports too. This teams equipment typically isn't good enough to compete on the 1.5 mile tracks and short tracks, so they have to take advantage of their opportunities at the Super speedways and boy did they ever in this one.
Nothing but pure joy and excitement. Winning the Daytona 500 has to be one of the greatest feelings in the world. Shoutout to the Love's car for winning this race on Valentine's Day. I guess sometimes the stars just align.