By: Toby Christie, Editor – Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie
Michael McDowell has come out of the gates swinging.
In his first start for Front Row Motorsports, McDowell started 22nd in the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion, and he showed great speed for the majority of the Daytona 500.
On a late-race green flag pit sequence, McDowell was heading to his pit stall, but skillfully decided to not swing into his stall as Trevor Bayne was exiting his stall beside him. This decision seemed costly at the time as McDowell would have to hit pit lane again — going down a lap as a result — but it saved his car critical damage at a track where aerodynamics are everything.
“Unfortunately, we had a little mishap on pit road. [Bayne] was coming out of his box as we were coming in. There was no way I wasn’t going to hit him, so we had to come back through and lost a lap,” McDowell said.
Luckily for McDowell and the No. 34 team, the closing laps of the race turned into a demolition derby. The numerous cautions allowed McDowell to get his lap back and put him back in contention for a great run. At the end of the crash-marred finish, McDowell had secured a ninth-place finish. Couple the good finish with top-10 results in the first two stages of the race, and McDowell leaves Daytona tied for fifth in the championship standings.
“We had our ups and downs that is for sure. I am thankful to get stage points,” an excited McDowell commented after climbing from his car. “It takes a top ten finish and makes it like a top-five. We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford.”
McDowell continued, “Thankful to get out of Daytona with a top-10. We brought a fast Ford. Showed good stage. It was a really good run.”
The finish was impressive, but even more so when you look at the performance of the driver that McDowell replaced at FRM. Landon Cassill recorded zero top-10 finishes in 72 starts with the organization. Further, the most top-10s that any driver has recorded for the race team in an entire season was three by David Ragan a year ago.
McDowell is already a third of the way to that total after just one race in 2018.
When you factor in the fact that in addition to being a restrictor plate ace in recent seasons, that McDowell is also a very accomplished road racer, you realize that there is a very real chance that the driver of the No. 34 could have a banner season for his new race team.
Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images