Did a broken spoiler help Michael McDowell win the Daytona 500?

Nick Bromberg
·3-min read

Could Michael McDowell's involvement in the 16-car crash on lap 15 of Sunday's Daytona 500 help propel him to victory?

McDowell slapped the wall while slowing down for the crash ahead of him before the lengthy rain delay. You can see him slide up into the wall while he's on the brakes in the clip below. Watch the yellow car at the right side of the GIF. He doesn't hit any other cars. Just the wall.

Michael McDowell hit the wall while avoiding this big crash. (via Fox)
Michael McDowell hit the wall while avoiding this big crash. (via Fox)

McDowell's car suffered damage on the right side of his car, especially on the right rear.

"What happened was the last six inches of the spoiler we had side-slapped the wall and we had right-side damage and it kind of bent the spoiler," crew chief Drew Blickensderfer said Sunday night.

That damage might have been key to his win along with his ability to avoid the massive crash that took out both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski on the final lap late Sunday night.

NASCAR issues the large spoilers that are on the cars at Daytona and Talladega to prevent teams from manipulating them in any way. Those spoilers help keep the cars on the ground and help cars behind draft up to the cars ahead. They also slow cars down too. A car without a spoiler would be much faster at Daytona than a car with a spoiler.

You can see the spoiler damage on the right side. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
You can see the spoiler damage on the right side. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Spoiler damage is typically a hindrance to a car's ability to go fast. But with cars able to go flat out at Daytona, there's the possibility the damage could have helped McDowell. The lower angle of the spoiler on the right side might have given his car a speed boost and helped keep him at the front of the field throughout the second half of Sunday's race.

"In the [1.5-mile track] car, that would have been worse," Blickensderfer said. "We have less drag if we have the spoiler closer to the back window. I am not sure if it was better or worse. All weekend long Michael said it was the best pushing car he has ever had down here, and that's a great thing for a guy like Michael and Front Row Motorsports because when we pull out of line people don't want to go with you a lot of times, but if you can push all day long and they realize you've helped them and helped them, it kind of builds some in the bank to where they'll go with you.

"Our car was narrowed up a little bit on the right side from the damage. Our spoiler was kind of twisted back, the last six inches of it and kind of opened up. So sure, it helped us get to Victory Lane. So I don't know if it was better or worse on the racetrack. I've seen it go both ways. Yeah, it was something we were a little concerned about because, like I said, on a mile-and-a-half car a lot of times, the opposite has been less drag."

A broken spoiler is typically not allowed by NASCAR. But while McDowell's car had to go through technical inspection after the race, NASCAR doesn't typically fail cars because of issues caused by crash damage. Had NASCAR found issue with McDowell's car, he would have been disqualified and Chase Elliott declared the winner. Instead, NASCAR clearly found that the spoiler issue wasn't anything worthy of a DQ.

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