Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Michael McDowell Curbs The Daytona Road Course

Top Dog

Michael McDowell is an accomplished road racer, so he always seems to have a better shot than most underdogs when the NASCAR Cup Series has to make a few right turns. With no one able to practice on the Daytona International Speedway road course prior to the start of the race, the often disadvantaged McDowell arguably had a leg up on most of the field with his skillset. The last time he had such a level playing field, he parlayed a 2016 Xfinity Series race at Road America into his first major NASCAR victory.

McDowell was able to turn this advantage into a top-10 run, bringing his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford across the stripe in 10th place. It wasn’t only how well he had done, but McDowell actually ran better than that for much of the event, getting as high as third.

Afterwards, McDowell spoke about the result.

“It was a decent day. We had high hopes, which is good. You should come to places like this where we have a lot of experience and track knowledge. Unfortunately, we started really deep in the field and we were able to drive up to the top 10 there before the end of the first stage, and then we talked about it and it was all about trying to win a race for us. We didn’t try to get stage points. We came in with a few laps to go and we were able to get into the top five and get to third. I saw those rain clouds coming and I thought that was exactly what I needed. I was hoping that it would rain because I have experience on this course in the rain and the others guys don’t really. We lost a little bit there at the end and got passed by guys that had fresher tires. We still managed to get in the top six or seven, and then that caution came out with five to go. We knew we weren’t going to beat Chase [Elliott] and those guys up front on the same tires, so we just took tires.”

Honorable Mention

Ty Dillon wound up being the only other top 20 finisher among the underdog teams, as he came home in the 20th position.

McDowell would not have been a top-10 finisher if it weren’t for the misfortune of Bubba Wallace. Wallace found himself in eighth place at the white flag, but only made it to turn 1 before contact sent him off course. Wallace righted the ship, but was 23rd by the time he made it to the finish line.

Other Dogs

The NASCAR Xfinity Series was the first to take to the 3.6-mile road course on Saturday afternoon, and a lengthy list of drivers had solid runs. As anticipated, Andy Lally was stellar, finishing fifth, and Jeremy Clements knocked out a sixth-place result. Teammates Myatt Snider and Ryan Sieg came in 10th and 11th, respectively, with Josh Bilicki in 12th. Tommy Joe Martins picked up his fourth consecutive top 20 in 13th position, and Bayley Currey overachieved yet again for Mike Harmon Racing as he was 14th at the end.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series proved that I don’t always get my predictions wrong. Parker Kligerman was the top dog with his eighth-place showing, followed closely by Scott Lagasse Jr. in ninth. Austin Wayne Self also enjoyed a successful outing, ending the race in the 11th position.

What to Expect

Another doubleheader looms for the Cup stars this weekend. The Monster Mile at Dover will host a pair of 311-mile races that will set the stage for the regular season finale at Daytona.

For the Cup cars, I anticipate a decent day for Dillon. In Xfinity, Josh Williams could have another standout performance. And as for trucks, keep an eye on Tate Fogleman and Spencer Boyd to potentially break into the top 15.

Look Who’s Talking

About the author

Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

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Jill P

Gotta always get Bubba in there somehow. He actually finished 25th.

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