Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
ASHLEY ASKS…… Michael McDowell
After a successful season highlighted by a fourth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway in July, Michael McDowell is on the move for 2018 as he will join Front Row Motorsports.
Recently, Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin spoke with the 33-year-old about his thoughts entering the year.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the year?
MICHAEL MCDOWELL: Definitely a lot of change for me moving over to Front Row Motorsports – a new start, new beginning, which is always fun and exciting. We’re all looking forward to getting our chemistry and working together, and it’s hard to do that in the off=season. Definitely looking forward to keep the momentum from last year going forward, and trying to build a group around the program.
There’s a lot of unknowns, but at the same time, there’s a lot of hope entering the season.
PS: You’ve been part of a single-car team for a couple years now, so what is it going to be like to be able to have a teammate in David Ragan?
MM: That part I am very excited about. Like you said, I’ve been on a program that has been a single car team for the last eight years. So it’s been a long time since I’ve had a teammate to work with, share data with, and there’s always strengths and weakness in each driver’s program – tracks they’re good at, and tracks they struggle at. So being able to have someone to lean on and build a program with, and for me, it’s very unique because David and I are very close friends off the track. So I think there our on-track and working together in the garage will even better because we’re close friends off the track.
PS: What are your goals and expectations?
MM: That’s a lot of what we’re going through in the off-season in just laying those expectations and where we want to be and how we want to get there. The biggest thing for us right now is we have a great partnership with Ford Performance, and a great alliance with Roush, so that increases expectations entering the year. But as far as number and goals, I want to be gaining throughout the year and a lot of that is starting off the first five or six races strong.
We really feel like we want to be in the low 20s, teens at times, and that’s going to be a pretty big jump but we’re all pushing hard to get there and feel the partnerships with Ford and Roush will help make that happen.
PS: What track are you most looking forward to?
MM: Obviously my background is road racing, so those races excite me, and especially just having a new team. I’ve actually worked with Front Row Motorsports several years back at Watkins Glen; I ran a Cup race for them. We had a lot of speed and qualified well, and were running well in the race and had a part failure. We definitely look at the road courses as an opportunity to run up front and possibly put ourselves in a playoff situation.
So there’s a lot of emphasis entering those events. This year there will be three with Charlotte (Motor Speedway) adding their road course. There’s a heavy emphasis on those races, and superspeedways, where obviously Front Row has some victories as well.
PS: You’ve been racing for small teams for awhile. What it’s like being David in David vs. Goliath?
MM: It’s got it’s ultimate times, and it’s a struggle at other times. So when you’re on the up-swing and things are going well, it’s a great feeling. But also, the struggles of being a small team and being underfunded and all those things when you’re struggling, it makes it tough. It’s hard to overcome and bounce back.
I feel like this last season was a big season for me, personally, just with a single-car team and having the success we had. Now moving forward into this year, Front Row Motorsports has got a great infrastructure and a lot of great people there, so there’s a lot to build on and I feel like there’s a lot to still prove. I know Bob Jankins, the owner, is excited about doing that, and there’s definitely some pressure to move this program to the next level.
PS: Looking back on 2017, what are your thoughts on how the stage racing played out?
MM: I thought it was good. I was kind of skeptical at first, and didn’t know how it would change the dynamic of the race, and the end result. I felt like it was, for me from my standpoint, it added some really nice breaks in the races and a kind of reset – get your pit stops, get your adjustments, and move on to the next segment. It created a lot of opportunities for the strategy so for me, I felt like it was good.
But I’m also not in that position where you’re running top-10 every week and it changes that dynamic of who stays out and who gets points. For me, for the smaller teams, it’s opened up some strategy and opportunities to make some different moves.
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