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Michael McDowell wins the 2021 Daytona 500

36-year old, veteran driver claims first Cup series victory after 14 years
Credit: AP
Michael McDowell celebrates after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The big names on the NASCAR circuit dominated the Daytona 500.

Two-time, defending champion Denny Hamlin claimed Stage One and Two. Former Daytona 500 champs Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick ran 1-2 down the stretch.

But following a devastating crash on Turn Three on the final lap of the 63rd Daytona 500, there were only a handful of cars left sailing towards the finish line. And in the lead was a man who has never won on NASCAR's highest circuit.

After 358 Cup series events without a win, Michael McDowell has not just his first Cup Series win. McDowell is a Daytona 500 champion.

The 36-year old from Arizona held off defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and 2018 Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon to claim the Harley J. Earl Trophy. McDowell, who began the day in 17th position and ran in the top-ten most of the race, had come close so many times before. He had four top-five finishes in 2020. He finished fifth here two years ago. 

Now, he finally has a first-place trophy to show for 14 years on the circuit.

The 63rd Annual Daytona 500 began with a bang, roaring through an opening 15 laps that featured two crashes, including a 16-car pile-up on Lap 14. Eleven cars would see their day come to an end because of the wreck, including pole sitter Alex Bowman. During the clean-up of the wreck, rain and wind rolled into Daytona Beach, prompting a five-hour, 40-minute rain delay. Racing began once more around 9 PM EST.