Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500 and headed to Victory Lane in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang on Sunday night. His victory took place immediately after a massive wreck occurred on Turn 3 of the race's final lap. Several drivers had the opportunity to secure the win, but they ended up in the infield or in the wall.
The crash was set off when McDowell tapped Brad Keselowski's No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang from behind, which started a chain reaction and sent Keselowski into the back of teammate Joey Logano's No. 22 Ford Mustang. The two men spun in opposite directions with Logano heading into the grass and Keselowski into the wall. Kyle Busch hit the No. 2 Ford at full speed and sparked a massive fireball.
Keselowski was not the only driver whose car caught on fire. Busch, Bubba Wallace, and Austin Cindric all were involved in the chain reaction. Their cars all sustained major damage from the hits and the fire. The huge wreck caused concern among racing fans, but every single driver was able to climb out of their respective cars and walk away — though the charred wreckage of Keselowski's car had to be hauled off of the track on a flatbed truck.
"I had a big run down the backstretch and went to make the pass to win the Daytona 500, and it ended up really bad," Keselowski said after the race. "I don't feel like I made a mistake, but I can't drive everybody else's car. Frustrating." Keselowski said that his car was not the fastest on the track, but he was in the exact position he wanted to be prior to the crash.
According to Terrin Waack of NASCAR.com, all of the drivers involved in the final wreck visited the infield care center after climbing out of their cars. They all were evaluated and released. This news sparked relief among racing fans that witnessed the violent collision, which occurred 20 years after Dale Earnhardt's death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
While the majority of the remaining field was involved in the wreck, five cars were able to keep racing for the finish line. McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin all kept driving. When the officials waved the caution flag and brought the race to its end, McDowell was in the lead. He won his first Daytona 500 in his 358th career Cup Series start while Elliott finished second. Dillon, Harvick and Hamlin rounded out the top five.