Denny Hamlin, who was disappointed that he couldn’t extend his win streak at Daytona, said no one should consider Michael McDowell’s victory as a quirk.
Denny Hamlin, very early Monday, posted on Twitter: Michael McDowell’s “win tonight was no fluke. Wasn’t a “anyone can win” type of race. He’s up front time and time again at these SS races. Well earned and well deserved. Congrats!”
Meanwhile, Michael McDowell, the new champion, was up very early Monday, too, soaking in his unexpected win at NASCAR’s premier kickoff event. He felt as joyous as Denny Hamlin did the last two years.
He tweeted: “Running on pure adrenaline. Last night was a night that has been a longtime in the making and it still hasn’t truly sunk in. Soaking in every moment!”
So if you missed the weather-delayed race, here’s what happened, how Denny Hamlin thought he could win and how Michael McDowell had the best combo of strategy and luck:
Joey Logano had taken over the lead after the six-hour weather delay. McDowell was behind Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski. As Keselowski jumped to make a move on the final lap, Logano blocked him. The move caused both to crash out.
Michael McDowell drove through the carnage to claim the title. When the race started, oddsmakers established McDowell as a 100-to-1 odds. It was his first time in 358 Cup starts that McDowell posted victory at Daytona International Speedway.
“There’s been lots of years where I was wondering what the heck am I doing and why am I doing it?” McDowell told reporters after the race. “I always knew if I just kept grinding that one day everything will line up and go right.”
Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin finished fifth. He’d won the last two Daytona stops. He had a bad last pit stop. He also said he didn’t like the race strategy used by others.
“I’m certainly disappointed, simply because I thought we had a dominant car, we won the stages and led a lot of laps,” Denny Hamlin told reporters. “But I hate being helpless. I hate not being able to do anything, not being able to use the skillset that I have to make moves.”
Denny Hamlin led 98 of the 200 laps, meaning he was the top dog for just under half the race. He pitted on Lap 175, allowing Logano to take the lead.
Instead of the win, Denny Hamlin settled for his seventh top five finish in his last eight Daytona 500 starts.
Plus, Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan also premiered their new racing team — 23XI racing with Bubba Wallace in the 23 car. Wallace led for one lap of the race, but ended up in 17th place.