Michael McDowell prevailed as the finish of the 2021 Daytona 500 was overshadowed by a wreck that involved race leader Joey Logano.
Because the caution flag waved, NASCAR officials had to review the video to check if McDowell was in first place and thus the race winner.
Daytona 500 Results
1. Michael McDowell
2. Austin Dillon
3. Chase Elliott
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Ryan Preece
7. Ross Chastain
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Corey LaJoie
10. Kyle Larson
Full leaderboard available at NASCAR.com
Logano had the finish line in his sights when he got bumped by Brad Keselowski. The fiery crash looked far worse than it proved to be as all the drivers involved exited their cars.
Logano and Keselowski are teammates, but Logano probably isn't feeling a ton of unity at the moment.
That opened the door for McDowell's improbable triumph. He led only one lap on the night and made it count. This is the first win of his NASCAR Cup Series career, and it means he'll collect one of the coveted 16 playoff spots.
On what proved to be such an unusual day, he was an appropriate victor.
Denny Hamlin dominated much of the race, winning the first and second stages. He maintained the lead into the final stage until the cars all headed to pit road with just under 30 laps remaining.
As they exited pit road, the Ford cars formed a convoy as Hamlin and his fellow Toyota drivers became separated. That left Hamlin vulnerable and powerless to stop the line of Fords led by Logano. A small pack of Chevrolets pushed Hamlin further back, and he was running by himself on the inside.
The three-time Daytona 500 champion was unable to recover.
Hamlin's stage wins at least ensure he doesn't come away totally empty-handed in an event that got off to an inauspicious start.
Fans didn't have to wait long to see "The Big One." On the 14th lap, Kyle Busch bumped the rear of Christopher Bell, who made contact with Aric Almirola. Almirola took out Alex Bowman before hitting the wall, and a 16-car wreck was underway.
That left track officials with a massive cleanup effort to get the action back underway. Then Mother Nature intervened. Lightning and inclement weather forced the race to be delayed. Motorsports.com's Jim Utter noted the red flag extended for more than five-and-a-half hours.
For the teams involved in the massive crash, that set up a race against the clock to get cars back up to the standard required to re-enter the race. Tyler Reddick's No. 8 car was in rough shape as he warmed the engine back up.
As they awaited the signal to return to their vehicles, drivers had to get creative to pass the time.
Jimmie Johnson reflected on one positive from his retirement:
There were some initial problems in terms of getting the track fully dry. Once the green flag waved, the action largely went without any issues right up until the last lap.
The NSACAR Cup Series stays in Daytona for the upcoming week. The O'Reilly Auto Parts 253 At Daytona will run Sunday on the road course, and it will have a high bar to clear to match the chaos from the 2021 Daytona 500.