Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell has had a busy 24 hours. He stayed up all night Sunday celebrating with his teammates and peers, and relishing the emotions of winning NASCAR’s biggest race in one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history.
Michael McDowell visited with reporters via Zoom Monday morning to relive the magic of scoring his first career Cup Series victory in 358 career starts. He’s not the first NASCAR driver to score his first career win in the Daytona 500, but few have sparked as much surprise, emotion and gratitude as Michael McDowell.
Michael McDowell had won just a single NASCAR race in 454 starts in the sport’s three national touring series — a lone Xfinity Series win at Road America in 2016. He’s spent the last 13 years driving in the Cup Series for a variety of underfunded backmarker teams, including the last three years with Front Row Motorsports, a Ford team short on funding but long on perseverance and determination.
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Michael McDowell won the 2021 Daytona 500 when he steered his way to the lead after Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski crashed on the final lap. Michael McDowell was pushing Keselowski into the lead when the wreck occurred, opening a path for one of the biggest upsets in Daytona 500 history and setting off a wild celebration he will never forget.
Michael McDowell estimates he got more than 400 text messages Sunday night after the victory, and they just keep on coming.
“Every time I look down at my phone I have another 100 texts,” Michael McDowell said. “It started at 350 and I went to breakfast and I got it down to about 290, and then I looked down again and it’s at 350. So everyone is just gonna have to be real patient and give me a couple days to get back to them.”
Michael McDowell shares Daytona 500 win with family
A native of Phoenix, Ariz., Michael McDowell lives in Mooresville, N.C. with his wife and four kids. His wife, Jamie, was home with the children during the Daytona 500, which was delayed by rain for more than six hours and didn’t end until about 11:30 EST Sunday night. She was watching on TV when he took the checkered flag and woke up the kids to celebrate with them.
“I was able to FaceTime with them in victory lane for a few minutes,” Michael McDowell said. “I would have loved to have that moment with them, but like I said last night, I’m just thankful that we get to race and I’m thankful that I have a healthy family and I can’t wait to see them today.”
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Michael McDowell was able to FaceTime with his kids again Monday morning and show them the Harley J. Earl trophy and his Daytona 500 ring. He couldn’t wait to get home to share the experience with them personally.
“I would love for them to be here and experience it but I can’t wait to get home and see them,” he said. “For us, as a family, we’ve always done this as a family. We’ve traveled together as a family and kids don’t always understand and they don’t know, like, ‘Daddy, why don’t you win the race? Why does this daddy win the race all the time?’ So to finally get to victory lane and to do it at the biggest race is amazing and it’s fun to experience that with them. I can’t wait to get home and show them the trophy and hold them and just super thankful. Like I said, it’s overwhelming to think what it means to be a Daytona 500 champion.”
Joey Logano visits Michael McDowell in victory lane
Michael McDowell, 36, is one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers in the garage. A devout Christian, he spends much of his time off the track sharing family and life experiences with other drivers and serving as a racing mentor and life coach for many young drivers. Joey Logano, whose wreck opened the door for McDowell’s win, was one of the first drivers to visit victory lane to congratulate him.
“I’m really happy for McDowell,” Logano said after the race. “I hate we didn’t win … I feel like we had a great shot leading on the last lap. But if we couldn’t win, I am really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person, a great leader in life, and he’s taught me a lot. It’s really cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”
“Obviously, he wanted to win the race,” Michael McDowell said of Logano. “But he just came up and congratulated me and just told me that I deserved it and how amazing it was that I get to experience this. He said it’s the last lap of the Daytona 500, I don’t expect you to lift and I don’t expect Brad to lift. Just soak it all in and don’t worry about what happened on the racetrack because all of us would have done the same thing.”
Those special moments are among the highlights for a driver who just experienced one of the greatest triumphs in auto racing. Moments he will never forget and will cherish for the rest of his career.
“It’s super emotional,” Michael McDowell said. “I don’t know how it is for everybody else, but I’m just so grateful and just so thankful that you’re just kind of overwhelmed with that. The thing that keeps going through my head is just all the people. And it’s not just in NASCAR, it’s my entire career, just so many people have given me an opportunity or helped me get here or sponsored me in a race and allowed me to do this that you’re just thinking about all those people. It’s humbling and it just makes you thankful for so many people, so my mind has been kind of racing about, ‘Man, this guy did this for me, and this guy did this for me.’ It’s just so many people that I need to thank.”
He’ll have plenty of time to thank his friends and share the moment with his family and answer all those text messages. Once he finally gets some sleep.