FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) – It’s a long road from racing on the small tracks across America to victory lane at the Daytona 500. In a new I Am Second video, Michael McDowell, winner of the 2021 Daytona 500, says lessons of humility and faithfulness don’t end when a driver reaches the senior racing circuit.
“I came into the sport with a big contract and a multi-year deal. And nine months later, I was without a job and my wife was pregnant expecting our first child,” McDowell said. His unexpected unemployment came at the end of his 2008 rookie season when a terrible crash shook him to his core.
The death-defying wreck happened at the Texas Motor Speedway in the second race of his rookie season. A spin sent him into the track’s wall at 185 MPH resulting in the car rolling 13 times. When the smoke cleared, McDowell was grateful he survived.
“You want to get known for winning races and winning championships. But I got known for that big accident,” McDowell said.
What followed was 14 years of sporadic racing opportunities, always hoping for a full-time ride.
“I was doing what I had to do to stay in the sport, to continue to gain experience and build relationships that one day would, hopefully, allow me to go to back to full-time racing,” McDowell shares in the video.
He said during those years he spent several nights sleeping in rental cars at race tracks and staying in other people’s hotel rooms hoping someone would need a last-minute driver.
It was during this challenging season that McDowell said he saw “God doing something that was shaping not just my career, but me.”
The break in his career came in the 2020 season when McDowell was signed by Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 34 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series. The season was marked by continued improvements as the team moved to the front of the pack.
Then, in 2021, McDowell was sitting in third place with one lap to go in the Daytona 500 when Joey Logano, running second, and Brad Keselowski, running first, wrecked and opened a window for McDowell to cross the finish line in first place to pick up one of NASCAR’s most coveted prizes.
“God was walking with me through the valleys before we got to the mountain top. Through the grind and the trials, he was shaping and molding me for the us moment to be ready for this moment when you get to the mountain top,” McDowell says.
In the video, he points to how his faith in Christ leads to peace in his life. “There’s nothing greater than having that peace of knowing that God is with you and walks with you.”