NASCAR’s Michael McDowell On Daytona 500 Win: ‘God Was Walking With Me Through The Valleys’
By Movieguide® Staff
In 2021, NASCAR racer Michael McDowell earned his first win at the biggest race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500.
At 37-years-old, McDowell’s victory marked the peak of his 14-year career comeback after suffering a career-ending crash in 2008.
“I came into NASCAR in 2008. I was young and arrogant and had a chip on my shoulder. I’d won everything that I’ve ever done leading up to that point and felt like that wasn’t going to stop,” McDowell said in an interview with I Am Second. “Very quickly I got very humbled in this sport. I have this huge crash.
“I was doing about 185 miles an hour when it went head-on into the wall, somewhere around 100 G’s was the impact and then barreled 13 times,” he explained. “Once that first impact happened, everything got super quiet and it sounded like somebody hit the mute button. I could just hear a ‘crunch, crunch, crunch.’ I remember wiggling my fingers, wiggling my toes trying to figure out all right, I got anything broke? Am I alive? What just happened? And once I got out of the car and I stepped down, I realized that they’re playing it on the replay. And when I saw it from that perspective, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I almost died right there.'”
Despite surviving the crash, McDowell said that that event changed his career trajectory.
“You want to get known for winning races and winning championships, but you know, I got known for that big accident. I came into the sport with a big contract and a multi-year deal. And nine months later, I was without a job,” he said.
McDowell said he went from a top prospect in racing to homeless and a child on the way with his wife.
Despite his circumstances, McDowell put his faith in God and worked to return to the track.
“It was really hard to wrap my head around, you know, what God was doing,” he confessed. “I opened up my Bible and I landed on James 1. And James 1 says, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds, that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, let perseverance finish its work so that you may be not lacking in anything.'”
“It’s just one of those moments where just God spoke to me that this hard time that I’m facing, it’s for a reason,” he continued. “That it’s doing something in me and through me and it’s teaching me about what it means to persevere and what it means to lean in and trust in God. And that perspective really changed, you know, what my next 10 years looked like in the sport.”
Over the next decade, McDowell trusted God, but the process back to the main stage was slow and painful.
“To know that you can be without a job in just a second, just helped me to really just trust God that God had a plan and it doesn’t always look how I wanted it to look or how I expected it to look,” he said. “But God is faithful and I came to the racetrack week after week, hopeful that this is the week it’s going to happen… It took a long, long time and a lot of trials to get there but my opportunity finally came.”
In the first race of the year, the Daytona 500, McDowell got his shot at his first win in NASCAR.
“If I ever had a shot to win a race, this is it. It finally all started to come together, coming to about five laps to go, I felt like I was in a really good spot. I was right where I wanted to be. I had a plan, sitting in the top five, sitting third,” he recalled. “Coming off a turn two, I had a big run. I was pushing the two car. He went forward, tried to pass the 22, it was literally like the seas parted. They had contact, the 2 went to the right, the 22 went to the left and I went right through the middle. And then the caution comes out. with the checkered flag and you sit there and you think, ‘Man, I think I just won the Daytona 500.'”
After officials confirmed McDowell’s win, he said that he was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for God’s faithfulness in his life.
“I remember about 30 minutes after the win, just overwhelming gratefulness anda very sobering of feeling like, ‘Man, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything,'” he said. “Like God literally provided this opportunity, and it started 14 years ago. God was walking with me through the valleys before we got to the mountain top. He was shaping and molding me for this moment, to be ready for this moment.”
“When you get to the mountaintop and you know that God’s walked with you the entire time, and that Christ dwells in us, He died on the cross for me so I can be forgiven of my sins, that’s enough for me to give Him my entire life and to follow Him,” he added. “There’s nothing greater than having that peace of knowing that God is with you and walks with you.”