The Daytona 500 Was A Fiery Blast

Illustration for article titled The Daytona 500 Was A Fiery Blast

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After just 14 laps, there was a Big One, a crash that caught up 16 cars, ending the race for several drivers, which I didn’t see because I wasn’t watching. But then there was a nearly six-hour weather delay, and by the time it restarted — not long after 9 p.m. — I was in the proper position. The race was as delightful a NASCAR race as I’ve seen in years.

See, for example, at 4:07 here pit crews working like hell to get the crashed cars back into shape after the big crash. Crews had six minutes to get the cars into raceable shape, and honestly, I could watch pit crews scrambling to cut a lot of metal over and over as an ASMR thing.

At some point tape made an appearance.

And that was all just a wind-up to the actual race, which had lead changes, more wrecks, and even Bubba Wallace leading a lap, the first time a Black driver has ever done so. It also had a surprise winner, Michael McDowell, who had started 358 NASCAR races and never won before Sunday. Only Michael Waltrip had more, or 463 winless starts before he won Daytona in 2001. (His brother Darrell Waltrip’s call of that race, by the way, never gets old.)

The way McDowell won was even more dramatic than Waltrip. Running behind Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, McDowell might have been resigned to finish third and again not win except the Keselowski and Logano came together on the final lap during the push to lead. That resulted in a massive, fiery crash but no injuries. McDowell needed no invitation to cruise past it all and take the checkered flag.

I simply don’t have the time to watch every NASCAR race and become a truly devoted fan, but if every race was this good … it might make one think.

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