A 1-2 Team Penske formation with a Daytona 500 victory at stake went downhill half a lap from the end, when running mates Joey Logano of Middletown, CT and Brad Keselowski collided, leaving both drivers short of the checkered flag.
That tangle allowed Michael McDowell’s No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford to squirt through for the veteran’s first Cup Series victory. Keselowski’s long-awaited bid for his first Daytona 500 unraveled, as did Logano’s attempt for his second Great American Race triumph.
On the white-flag lap, Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford made a big-time charge on the backstretch with McDowell shoving his back bumper. Logano’s No. 22 Penske Ford had led the previous 25 laps, but his attempt to keep his teammate’s move at bay missed the mark, and a multi-car crash erupted as the pack barreled into Turn 3. That melee also sidelined Penske rookie Austin Cindric, Saturday’s Xfinity Series winner who was making his Cup Series debut.
“I had a big run down the backstretch and wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said matter-of-factly after placing 13th — one spot behind Logano in the unofficial results. His in-the-moment heartache was evident as he threw his helmet at his wrecked car after dismounting. “I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car, so frustrating. The Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position and right then we were in position. It’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
The two teammates also crashed in last year’s Busch Clash at Daytona, which sparked some criticism from Keselowski that the two drivers ultimately sorted through. This time, Logano was dejected but at least able to tip his cap to McDowell, another driver in the Ford Mustang fold who scooted through the final battle with just minor contact.
“Pandemonium, I guess. Chaos struck,” said Logano, “The 2 (Keselowski) kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of the 34 (McDowell), and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot. It’s a real bummer that none of the Penske cars won, but at least a Ford won and I’m really happy for McDowell.
“I hate that we didn’t win with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. I feel like we had a great shot being where we were and leading on the last lap, but if we couldn’t win I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person, a good leader in life and has helped me a lot in my life, so it’s very cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”