• Alyvia Maynard

The Great American Race

Chris O'Meara/AP

Each year, the Daytona 500 is sure to give race fans some unexpected surprises. This year was no different. It all started when a 15-car crash on lap 14 brought out the caution flag. This crash included drivers such as Bowman, Newman, Byron, Truex, Jr., Blaney, McMurray, and Kurt Busch. Shortly after the drivers got the green flag, they were forced to stop again due to weather. This rain delay lasted almost six hours. During the delay, drivers participated in ZOOM interviews and some even left for a nearby drive-thru. Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 car, left the track, still in his fire suit, to order Panda Express for lunch. Similarly, Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 42 McDonald’s car, went to McDonald’s to order lunch for his whole team.

After what seemed like an eternity, drivers could finally re-enter their cars at about 9pm. Denny Hamlin, who was going for a 3-peat, was the winner at the end of stages 1 and 2. A 3-peat seemed promising and would have made history as the first Daytona 500 3-peat. Meanwhile, Bubba Wallace did make history as the first African American to lead a lap at the Daytona 500, which also happened to be during his driving debut for the new team formed by Hamlin and Michael Jordan.

Hamlin was still in the lead going into turn three at the beginning of stage 3. It was a tight race between Hamlin, Logano, and Keselowski until the final lap. With one lap to go, Logano, who was in the lead, blocked Keselowski, causing them both to wreck. This caused a fiery, multi-car crash and the race to end under a caution flag. Michael McDowell emerged as the winner (as a 100-1 underdog, only leading half a lap the entire race), making this his first Cup Series win. Only 11 cars managed to finish on the lead lap. Hamlin, who was so close to making history, finished 5th. In victory lane, filled with gratitude, McDowell said, "It’s unbelievable and I’m so thankful, but I’m thankful to have a happy, healthy family and a beautiful wife and a great family. Not everybody makes it to victory lane and for 14 years I didn’t, so just to be here now is just so amazing.”

The NASCAR community also took this time to remember Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who tragically passed away 20 years ago in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500. Tune in next Sunday, February 21 at 3pm to catch the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona Road Course on FOX.