Before going out and winning the Daytona 500 in dramatic fashion on Sunday, Michael McDowell read his Bible and prayed, just like he tries to do every day. In the chaotic aftermath of the race — which also happened to be his first Cup Series win — McDowell went back and looked at what he wrote during his devotional time that morning.
He couldn’t believe what he found.
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“I prayed for victory in the race, safety and knowing that He holds it all in the palm of His hands,” he said Thursday on the Sports Spectrum Podcast, just days after the two cars ahead of him crashed on the race’s final lap, allowing McDowell’s No. 34 car to emerge unscathed and eventually victorious. “I lost it yesterday when I read it.”
The scripture he read that morning was from Mark 9, where a father is frustrated because Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal his son, who was possessed by an evil spirit. McDowell was struck by verse 23:
“‘”If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.'”
The struggles with doubt described in the passage resonated with the 36-year-old McDowell.
“I do believe and I’ve always believed that I could win and that it’s possible,” he said on the podcast. “I’ve always believed that it’s possible, but there is an element of unbelief in there.”
Since making his Cup Series debut, McDowell has had his fair share of challenges, including a scary crash during qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008 and uncertainty surrounding his long-term future in NASCAR. His unlikely journey to becoming a Daytona 500 winner serves as a reminder for him that God is the One in control.
“For the last 10 years, 12 years, I’ve been in a year-to-year situation,” he said on the podcast. “I haven’t had a five-year contract or a multi-year contract. Every year, I literally need the Lord to provide the opportunity. Because of that, I know it’s not me.”
McDowell’s triumph at Daytona came in his 358th career start. Only Michael Waltrip had to wait longer to reach victory lane.
McDowell’s appreciation for the ways God has blessed his life and provided for him throughout his time in NASCAR allows him to have a different perspective on his career-altering victory. McDowell saw God at work long before Sunday’s race.
“It hasn’t always looked really good, it hasn’t always looked shiny and fun,” he said. “But God’s walked with me through this entire journey. That journey is what makes it sweet.”
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