McDowell wins Daytona 500 amid last-lap ‘chaos’

Sports

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Michael McDowell stormed through a crash scene to win the Daytona 500 early Monday, snapping an 0-for-357 streak with a fiery pileup in his rearview mirror.

McDowell led just the final lap — maybe half of it, really — when Brad Keselowski turned teammate Joey Logano as the Team Penske drivers jockeyed for the victory.

McDowell stayed flat in the gas and plowed past the two spinning cars to the lead, then won a three-wide drag race until NASCAR threw a race-ending caution.

It was mayhem behind McDowell as a huge pack of cars could not avoid Keselowski and Logano. The collisions were one on top of another, flames erupting all over Daytona International Speedway as the race came to a close early Monday morning, nearly nine hours after it began.

McDowell, a 36-year-old journeyman from Arizona, was a 100-1 underdog at the start of the race and seemed in disbelief after taking his first checkered flag.

“So many years just grinding it out hoping for an opportunity like this,” McDowell said. “We’re the Daytona 500 champions. I cannot believe this. Luckily was able to make it through.”

A rain delay of almost six hours pushed the race into the night and under the lights, albeit without almost half the field. A 16-car accident just 15 laps into the race — moments before the rain — thinned the contenders and set up a showdown between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin and Harvick had the two best cars but pit strategy ended Hamlin’s shot at winning a record third-consecutive Daytona 500.

Reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finished second and 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon was third. Harvick finished fourth, and Hamlin was fifth after leading a race-high 98 laps.

Keselowski has no regrets about the way he handled the final lap. Keselowski had a huge run on Logano about a mile from the finish line. Keselowski tried to pass Logano on the low side, but Logano blocked him and ended up crashing both of them.

Kyle Busch slammed into the side of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, sending it spinning and hitting the wall again. Austin Cindric plowed into both, creating a brief explosion and fire. Each driver escaped unscathed.

“Had a big run down the backstretch, wanted the make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said. “Don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everyone else’s car. Frustrating.

“We were in position. It’s exactly where I wanted to be — running second on the last lap of Daytona with this package. Had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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