Sixteen cars wiped out
As that final lap proved, luck and most crucially the lack of it can play the biggest hand in who wins and loses in NASCAR’s superspeedway pack racing, and the other big moment of the race kicked off on lap 14. A multi-car wreck wiped out 16 cars on the back straight, and given that it was triggered at the front of the field the losers included some of the day’s major players. Kyle Busch tapped fellow Toyota driver Christopher Bell, who then bumped into Aric Almirola. The #10 Ford, running second to leader Kevin Harvick, slewed right and collected pole position winner Alex Bowman’s #48 Chevrolet. Karma would have the last laugh for Busch, who would later get caught up in the last lap wreck.
Almirola’s misfortune triggered chaos and an abrupt end to the 2020 Daytona 500 for, among others, former winners Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and perhaps most heartbreakingly of all Ryan Newman – a year on from the terrifying last-lap crash that left the 43-year-old in an induced coma. Newman had nosed his #6 Ford into a brief lead just minutes earlier, but any notion of a fairy-tale return to Daytona a year on from his miraculous deliverance was scotched in a blink of an eye. And there wasn’t a thing he or his other pile-up victims could do about it.
As the second caution period of the race kicked in, flashes of lightning and heavy rain forced a red flag stoppage and a long pause for the weather to clear. When it finally did, no one could have predicted how this one would end – least of all Michael McDowell. It turned out to be the defining moment of his professional life.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.