By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Another Daytona 500 is in the books and once again, the finish was capped off by a violent, multi-car crash.
A year removed from Ryan Newman’s harrowing crash in the 2020 edition of the Great American Race, carnage reigned supreme in the waning moments of this year’s race at the World Center of Racing.
With the Harley J. Earl trophy on the line, it was every man for himself on the final lap, as Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski ran 1-2 down the backstretch, with Michael McDowell in tow behind them.
As runs were beginning to build behind the top three drivers, McDowell gave Keselowski a shot to the rear bumper, with the shove giving him a boost of speed and a decision to make on how to try and get past his teammate in an effort to finally score a Daytona 500 win that has eluded him over the years.
Keselowski would wind up making contact with Logano heading into Turn 3, turning both his teammate and himself into the outside wall and setting off a fiery crash that involved eight cars when all was said and done. Aside from Logano and Keselowski, the others that were caught up in the melee included Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Ryan Preece, and Bubba Wallace.
McDowell was able to sneak through the chaos to take the win – his first in 357 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series. During his victory press conference, the newly minted Daytona 500 winner gave his recollection of the accident as it unfolded right in front of him.
“I definitely was pushing Brad,” McDowell said. “The last lap you just lock bumpers and push as hard as you could. But I gave him a shove, but we actually got disconnected and thankfully we did because it’s when we got disconnected, and I didn’t see how Joey and Brad got together, but it’s when we got disconnected that the contact was made and that gave me a little bit of a gap to get through, otherwise I would have been right on the 2.
“The way these runs work, sometimes when you hit a guy you kind of push him out a little bit and you get detached from him, and Brad and I had a great run and I was on his bumper and then he pulled down and I got a little bit detached from him and then him and the 22 got together.”
After being evaluated and released from the Infield Care Center, Keselowski and some of the others gave their point-of-view on what had transpired on the last lap.
“I had a big run down the backstretch and wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said. “I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car, so frustrating. The Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position and right then we were in position. It’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
Keselowski continued his post-race thoughts on Twitter, noting the heartbreak of being so close, only to end the race the way it did.
“Pandemonium, I guess,” Logano added of the finish. “Chaos struck. The 2 kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of the 34 and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot.”
“It was just a matter of time before it all breaks loose and whatever happens, happens,” said Kyle Busch. “I saw a window to the outside and all of a sudden I had the 2 (Brad Keselowski) on my hood. I don’t know. I felt like those guys were going to get bogged down on the bottom so I was trying to shoot for the top and get a run on the outside of them. That’s typically where everybody was going all night long and hopefully get a run off of (turn) four.
“I was just trying to shoot for a top-five. We were too far back to make anything happen for a win. We got clobbered there a few times obviously, and just fortunate that I’m all good. Our M&M’s Camry – that one won’t live on for another day, but hopefully we will be back here next week and have a better go round on the road course and get back after it.”