Daytona 500 win brings back many memories for Michael McDowell

COVID-19 procedures silenced Michael McDowell’s event, however it was still unique to be standing in Success Lane after in 2015’s Daytona 500.

When he went back to North Carolina the following day, stepping off a personal airplane and bring the winner’s prize into Concord-Padgett Regional Airport, friends and family rejoiced. Hugs and smiles filled the little terminal.

En route house — less than 24 hr after ending a 357-race winless dry spell in Cup — his expert accomplishment mattered bit.

“We’re driving home, and my oldest daughter, she got sick and started throwing up,” McDowell informed NBC Sports.

“So, the first thing that I did when I got home was take all the seats out and clean out the car, vacuum out the puke.

From Daytona 500 winner … to cleaning puke out of the family vehicle.

“It was back to reality very quickly,” McDowell stated.

Such can be life for a racer. Wins can be followed by ordinary tasks in your home, whether getting the garbage, strolling the pet dog or tidying up after the kids.

“I kind of consider myself like an average Joe that has made it to the highest level and won the biggest race in motorsports,” McDowell stated.

As the 1 year anniversary of his Daytona 500 win— and the start of this season — nears, McDowell has a much better gratitude of what his very first profession Cup triumph suggests and what it doesn’t.

While the general public seen Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as amongst the favorites for in 2015’s Daytona 500, McDowell’s credibility grew amongst close observers and rivals. He had 3 top-10 surfaces in 9 Daytona 500s prior to in 2015’s race, consisting of a fifth-place lead to the 2019 occasion.

With 2 laps to enter in 2015’s 500, McDowell was 4th. He had actually run in the leading 5 the last 25 laps, awaiting his possibility to make a relocation. Logano led. McDowell followed Keselowski by Kevin Harvick to move into 3rd location as they approached the white flag to start the last lap.

“Coming to the white flag, I knew I was in a really good spot, the spot I wanted to be in,” McDowell stated.

As the field got in Turn 3, Keselowski made an operate on Logano. Keselowski and Logano made contact, sending out Logano down the track to the apron and Keselowski up the track into the SAFER barrier. McDowell, who was on Keselowski’s bumper, went through the opening in between the 2 automobiles to take the lead.

McDowell led, however Chase Elliott ducked low to make a relocation. Then came the care. What took place next stays an unique memory for McDowell.

“It was the waiting to know if we won the race or not, because the caution came out, and I felt like we had won, but you have all this doubt of what if you didn’t,” McDowell stated.

It was more than 2 minutes after he crossed the goal that NASCAR stated McDowell the winner.

After the commemorating that followed at Daytona, at the store and in other places, McDowell started to feel the effect of that win in an unanticipated method.

“I didn’t realize how much pressure and how much anxiety and just how much I put on myself — until the following week after the 500 when we went back to Daytona for the road course,” he stated of the race that came a week after his triumph.

“It’s not that you lost that fire to win, but I just didn’t have this weight that I was carrying around that I’ve had and I didn’t even know I had. So I felt like I was a much better driver after the win, decision-making and just being able to capitalize on the moment and opportunities inside the race car.

“I was holding on for dear life before of ‘This is it. This is your only shot. You got to make it happen. If you make the wrong move, if you make the wrong decision, if you speed, if you lock a tire, it’s over. It’s the only shot you have.’

“So the following week to kind of go there and not have that extra pressure and anxiety that I had going into the 500 was probably the biggest change I noticed personally on the racetrack.”

Another modification is that he’ll enter into this year’s Daytona 500 as the ruling champ. McDowell looks for to end up being just the 5th motorist in NASCAR history to win back-to-back Daytona 500s. The others are Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95) and Hamlin (2019-2020).

“More than anything, what I learned, was how much and how big a deal winning the Daytona 500 is, bigger than I expected even being in the industry and being around it,” stated McDowell, who starts his 5th season at Front Row Motorsports.

“From just an exposure standpoint and a value standpoint to the partners and momentum and confidence and all the things that come with it, not just with myself or your immediate core group of guys on the road, but everybody, from sponsors to partners, everything. The ripple effect was a lot bigger than I expected.

“The flip side of it that is now you’re into a new season, and not that you forgot about it, because you never forget about it, winning again is the goal when you head back to Daytona. For me, it’s not thinking what we accomplished last year, but what we can accomplish this year.”

Whatever he attains this year, it will be with the Next Gen vehicle. Different modifications to the body and mechanics of the vehicle will alter how it feels to motorists, however the racing? That shouldn’t alter much, McDowell stated.

“I think the guys that are good at … putting themselves in position will be the same guys,” he stated. “(The Next Gen car) might level the playing field a little bit from the front to the back. I do believe you are going to see the same guys up front that you normally see at Daytona and Talladega.”

With 3 leading 10s in the last 4 Daytona 500s, he might be back in contention.

He still has a long time left as the ruling champ prior to the Feb. 20 race. Almost a year later on, however, his kids still take a look at him the exact same method.

As papa.

“We got to do a lot of great things and experience neat things we wouldn’t have otherwise, but at the end of the day, your kids don’t really care about that,” McDowell stated of his Daytona 500 win. “They just care that you’re there and you love them and that’s about it.”

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Daytona 500 win revives numerous memories for Michael McDowell initially appeared on NBCSports.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.