Race Weekend Central

The Underdog House: Michael McDowell Earns Top 10 at Kansas Despite Late Crash

Top Dog: Michael McDowell

Kansas Speedway proved to be difficult and caution heavy in the closing stage of Sunday’s (May 5) AdventHealth 400, and for many of the underdogs, the carnage ended up costly.

However, others were able to rebound and prevail through the chaos that unfolded at Kansas, one being the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang Dark Horse of Michael McDowell.

McDowell was fast out of the gates, transferring to the second round of qualifying and starting in eighth. Although he slid out of the opportunity of stage points, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner would stay within the top 15 for most of stage one and two.

See also
Kyle Larson Wins Kansas After Closest NASCAR Cup Series Finish In History

However, to start stage three, he fell further down the order and ended up being caught up in a crash with Austin Cindric and Bubba Wallace. McDowell was t-boned in his right door, sending the Love’s Truck Stop Ford spinning.

Although McDowell was heavily damaged, a caution on lap 192 for a spin by Harrison Burton allowed McDowell to service the car and make further repairs.

What benefited the Phoenix, Ariz. native was a quick caution on lap 198 for a spin by Joey Logano sent the rest of the field minus teammate Todd Gilliland down pit road to ready up for a fuel mileage battle. The strategy would play perfectly for McDowell as he would restart next to his damaged compatriot in Wallace.

Although McDowell would spend time running in the top five, he eventually fell back to bottom of the top 15 before another timely caution for Kyle Busch spinning helped the No. 34 team.

After final pit stops, McDowell restarted sixth on the bottom, and while the closest finish in NASCAR history happened ahead, McDowell, with a clobbered right door, crossed 10th for his first top 10 at Kansas.

Notable Underdog Runs

Although Legacy Motor Club’s boss Jimmie Johnson crashed early, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim (filling in for Erik Jones) lined up on the inside of the fourth and fifth rows on the final restart. Heim spun out of turn four while Nemechek was able to cross as the second-best underdog on the day, finishing 13th.

Gilliland made noise by being the only driver to stay out before the long green-flag stretch in stage three, and initially, he held some of the faster drivers at bay. The final caution allowed Gilliland to get the fuel he need to get to the end, and after the final restart, Gilliland crossed the line 14th, the second FRM Ford in the top 15.

Justin Haley restarted fourth, as he was one of the few that gambled with strategy to make it to the end. However, the final caution was not what Haley was looking for, as he looked to be on track for a top 15 finish. Instead, the driver of the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford completed the race 18th.

Carson Hocevar spent time battling within the top 10, but he was one of the few that decided to pit under green before Busch spin forced overtime. Hocevar took the waive around but only salvaged 24th.

Derek Kraus took the reins for the No. 16 and led a couple laps in stage one, hoping for a caution to try to capitalize the same way teammate Daniel Hemric did last week at Dover Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, the caution never flew for Kraus which relegated him to the back for the majority of the race. Kaulig Racing finished with Hemric 30th and Kraus 31st.

What They’re Saying

McDowell (10th):

Haley (18th):

Johnson (36th):

Who’s Really the Top Dog?

2024 Underdog Medal Count

Gold: Jones (3x), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2x), Hocevar (2x), Corey LaJoie, Nemechek, AJ Allmendinger, Hemric

Silver: Gilliland (3x), Allmendinger (2x), Burton, Hocevar, Haley, Zane SmithTy DillonAnthony Alfredo, Nemechek

Bronze: Nemechek (3x), Stenhouse (2x), LaJoie, Kaz GralaShane van Gisbergen, Hocevar, Jones, Gilliland (2x)

See also
Thinkin’ Out Loud at Kansas: Progressive Banking Makes Progressive Racing

Small Team Scheme of the Week

Haley sported blue colors in his Children’s Mercy Kansas City Ford Mustang for RWR. This weekend he showed his support on and off the track by spending time with some patience from the facility, taking a couple pictures with them as well.

Besides, who doesn’t love a fantastic looking scheme that shows support to the children?

About the author

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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Pat S

It wouldnt surprise me if one of the FRM cars or both win a race a race on flat out speed.

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