5 takeaways from NASCAR’s Daytona 500

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NASCAR Cup Series 63rd Annual Daytona 500

Source: Jared C. Tilton / Getty

McDowell’s first race win comes on NASCAR’s biggest stage

A fiery crash on the last lap of the Great American Race came as no surprise. What emerged from the wreckage was the No. 34 of Michael McDowell’s Loves Ford heading to victory lane for his career win in the Monster Energy Cup Series. McCowell never led the race except coming off the final turn with a majority of the lead-lap cars wrecking behind him, including Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keslowski, who were racing for the win before the huge crash. McDowell was a 100-to-1 underdog prior to the start of the Daytona 500.

20 years A.D. (After Dale)

It’s still hard to believe Dale Earnhardt Sr. has been gone for twenty years. The legacy he left behind in Motorsports  will be everlasting, but his death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 will be viewed as the moment in time NASCAR took steps to become safer. The horrific crash involving Ryan Newman during last year’s Daytona 500 was a strong indication the sport has taken monumental leaps forward to protect drivers. Earnhardt’s life was celebrated on Sunday as a reminder that even though he was taken prematurely, NASCAR has evolved because of his tragedy. “The Intimidator” would’ve turned 70 this coming April.

Monday morning race refresh  

The Daytona 500 kicked-off with 15 laps before a nearly six-hour weather delay. Crew members and drivers returned to their positions at the track around 9 p.m. ET to restart. About ten hours after starting the race, Michael McDowell drove the No. 34 to victory lane. Amazingly, NASCAR was able to get the race in with an early Monday finish at around 12:45 a.m., but still not the latest in history.

Welcome 23XI and Trackhouse Racing 

Two brand new teams coming into NASCAR this season both have a diverse background. The 23XI team started by sports legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin took on Bubba Wallace as their first-ever driver to be suited up in the No. 23 car. A first for Jordan, who is currently the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Also, a new venture for Hamlin to break the mold of just competing on the track and is now part-time owner.

The Trackhouse Racing team formed by international recording artist Pitbull and former NASCAR driver Justin Marks is also new to the sport as of 2021. Like Jordan, a new avenue Pitbull after years in the music industry as a top performer and entertainer. They take on the No. 99 of Daniel Suárez, who is no stranger to competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. The 28-year-old from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico was the Xfinity Series champion in 2016.

Diversity and inclusion for NASCAR 

One takeaway from the entire Daytona weekend was the call by the sport to become more diverse. With 23XI and Trackhouse joining the fold, NASCAR showcased to the world that the sport is evolving to embrace those from different backgrounds, especially during Black History Month. Wallace is NASCAR’s only current Black full-time cup driver competing against a field of mostly white competitors. The sports hopes to change that in the near future and they were vocal about their intentions.