DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Survival is the most important skill in the Daytona 500.
NASCAR’s season opener is a three-hour, white-knuckle thrill ride in cramped quarters at 200 mph that’s as much about finding holes and help than having speed and handling.
The fastest car rarely wins and has as good a shot at ending up in the junkyard as victory lane.
It’s why little-known Michael McDowell has nearly as many top-10 finishes at Daytona International Speedway as stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson since the famed track was repaved in 2010.
McDowell is far from the only fluke. A look into recent top-10s at Daytona highlights the unpredictable nature of superspeedway racing and gives hope to every driver in the 40-car field.