Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Michael McDowell ran 1-2-3 as the last of 200 laps began in the early hours Monday morning at Daytona International Speedway.
Kevin Harvick, who had been in the mix up front, had fallen back but picked up help from Austin Dillon to return to the battle.
Coming down the backstretch and entering Turn 3, Keselowski went high and Logano followed him to block. McDowell continued to stay tucked in behind Keselowski and appeared to give him a shove from behind.
Keselowski then got into the left-rear quarter-panel of Logano, sending his No. 22 Ford into a spin. Logano spun to the inside and Keselowski spun to the outside and into the retaining wall, where his No. 2 Ford caught on fire as other cars piled into the wreck.
McDowell split the middle with Chase Elliott right behind him. Elliott moved to McDowell’s outside to take the lead but after NASCAR reviewed the tape, it determined McDowell was the leader when the caution lights were displayed for the wreck behind them.
Asked what happened, Logano said: “Pandemonium, I guess. Chaos struck. (Keselowski) kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of (McDowell) and it ended up being a really big run coming at me.
“It seemed like we all just collided in one spot. It’s a real bummer that none of the Penske cars won, but at least a Ford won and I’m really happy for McDowell. I feel like we had a great shot being where we were and leading on the last lap.
“But if we couldn’t win, I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing.”
Keselowski, who has come close many times to winning the 500, thought he was in perfect position to earn his first victory.
“I had a big run down the backstretch and wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad. I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car, so frustrating,” he said.
“We were in position. It’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
Logano ended up credited with a 12th place finish and Keselowski 13th.