The 2021 racing season officially began a few weeks ago with the Rolex 24 at Daytona kicking off the IMSA Weather Tech Sportscar Championship season. Last night the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series kicked off its season with the Daytona 500; one of the most prestigious races of the year. After a long delay due to inclement weather and multiple fiery wrecks, it was Michael McDowell taking the checkered flag for the first time in his career.
The First 15 Laps
With fewer than 28,000 fans in attendance, the Daytona 500 got off to a fast pace start with Hendrick Motorsports cars on the front row and potential for rain in the forecast. The first “Big One” occurred on lap 14 when Christopher Bell got into the back of Aric Almirola near the font of the pack causing a 15 car pileup. During the cleanup, the red flag was brought out for lightning in the area which turned into a downpour and a six plus hour delay.
The race restarted under the lights after track drying activities concluded. Stage 1 would see Denny Hamlin winning. Stage 2 racing was relatively tame until Lap 111 when Christopher Bell cut a tire and took out Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Kyle Larson bringing out another caution. Denny Hamlin would go on to win Stage 2.
Stage 3 was mostly trouble free until the end when Michael McDowell tapped Brad Keselowski who then ran into Joey Logano causing a fiery crash with one lap to go in the race. This secured McDowell’s first ever win with Elliot, Dillon, Harvick and Hamlin rounding out the top five. The race ended just after midnight local time.
The win will secure McDowell a place in the 16 driver playoff field later this season and a special place in NASCAR history as one of only eight drivers to score their first win at the Daytona 500. This was his 358th career start.
Pre-race Events and Coverage
Like past years, Fox Sports will cover the first third of the NASCAR season with commentators Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer. The coverage for the Daytona 500 was especially awful with very little mention of cars or actual racing and lots of woke NASCAR segments. Of course, Bubba Wallace was the star of the pre-race with plenty of time dedicated to “noose” events of last year.
Let’s hope that we can get back to the NASCAR of old next race which would include things like interview of top tier drivers, racing statistics and information about the cars themselves. We’ll see what next week brings when they’re back at Daytona for some road course racing.
Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 3:00pm on FOX