Up Front with McDowell, Vol. 5

This month in Up Front with McDowell, we talk the Next Gen car, rain delays, dream teams, and more. (Photo Credit: Front Row Motorsports.)

The multi-day, rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway provided an opportunity to speak with Michael McDowell. The driver of the No. 34 was candid when answering some serious and some not-so-serious questions for this installment of Up Front with McDowell.

While his opening laps were strong, a part failure ended what hoped to be a strong run at the Charlotte ROVAL. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Terra Jones: This first question was submitted by die-hard Front Row Motorsports fan, Jeremy Bock. He was wondering, “With the Next Gen car being delayed until 2022, how much will this delay benefit FRM?”

Michael McDowell: Oh cool! So, I think it’ll benefit us because we’ve had a pretty good year as far as the development of our cars and just making progress. With the development freeze that NASCAR is putting in place, we should be able to use that same equipment in cars next year and I think that’s very helpful. Obviously, it would be fun with a brand new car to see where we stack up, but I also feel that we already have the equipment so that’s good – we’ll be able to use it again for another year.

Jones: October had the potential to start really strong for you and your team with Talladega and the ROVAL. Unfortunately, you came out of those races with a DNF and a broken part in the final laps. Do you have to refocus, personally and within the team, when you hope to start off strong and then have to head to tracks that maybe aren’t your best? I know there are the elements of ‘you’re a professional’ and ‘it’s part of the job’, but no doubt, there’s a human aspect to it as well.

McDowell: It’s very disappointing to go to tracks where we feel like we are capable of a lot and not get the results. And obviously, at Talladega, with a piece coming through the radiator and wiping us out, there was not a whole lot that we could have done differently there to avoid that. But we were running strong and competitive in the top 5 when it happened.

The unfortunate part is those are opportunities for us – not only to get a good race result but to score a lot of points. We’re in this tight battle for that 23rd, 24th, 25th in Owner Points which is a really important battle for us. Getting zero points at Talladega hurt a lot.

Then going into the ROVAL, that was kind of the only bright side of Talladega, “Alright guys, we’ve got the ROVAL coming up!” (laughs) And then the ROVAL did not go well. So that was really disappointing – having the part failure. To be honest, nothing went well in the race for us. But, we were still going to be in that 10th-15th range and have a decent day and score decent points, and then it all unraveled.

McDowell was hoping to turn some laps in the rain at the ROVAL. Unfortunately, neither Mother Nature nor Lady Luck wanted to play along. (Photo Credit: Front Row Motorsports.)

That hurt. It hurt all those same things – the points, having a good finish, and all that. Last year, the superspeedways and road courses were a bright spot for us and where we scored some top 10s and top 5s. That part, we didn’t get so far this year but at the same time, we’ve had really good runs at other places. It would be nice to combine the two and have those really strong superspeedway and road course runs with how well we’ve run everywhere else.

But, we’ve rebounded well I feel like. We had another top 20 last week (at Kansas) and I feel like our car is good enough today to be in that same range and maybe even a little bit better.

You know, it sucks. It’s two races that hurt, but it’s not the end of the world. It definitely tightened up that point battle way more than we wanted. Now we’re a few points behind the 6 car and a few behind the 43, but we’re definitely close enough to be able to stay in the fight. Whoever executes the best over these next three weeks will get those spots.

 

Jones: Let’s shift gears to a couple of not-so-serious questions. What is your funniest or most memorable fan interaction?

McDowell: Oh that’s a tough one. I’d say a few years after my Texas crash…

Jones: And for the record, I didn’t bring up that crash! 

McDowell: (laughs) Oh, yeah! No, it’s okay! But, I wasn’t a big name, I still wasn’t after that, but, I’d come to Texas and I remember one fan in particular. He stopped me. He looked me up and down with this weird stare, and he was like, “Hey, ain’t you that guy that flipped like 15 times?” Yup. That was me! He didn’t know my name. Didn’t know who I was. But he remembered that!

Jones: Of course he did! Here’s a timely one – how do you spend rain delays, especially when they last hours and days?

McDowell: You know, I get pretty anxious about leaving the track. But this year, everything is so different with COVID protocols, so you don’t really have the freedom to come and go. And also, you don’t have the freedom to hang out with the guys. This year is definitely different. But normally, you’d be hanging out with the guys, telling racing stories, and talking about the next race or two, maybe going over some notes. Oh! And a lot of eating.

 

Michael McDowell and the No. 34 team had to shift gears after a disappointing start to the month. (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.)

Michael McDowell and the No. 34 team had to shift gears after a disappointing start to the month. (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.)


J
ones: I’ve definitely seen some strange food videos on Twitter during this delay! One more fun one. Your former teammate, Matt Tifft, announced this week he would be co-owner of a Cup Series team. So, if you had to put together a dream race team, who would you choose and why?

McDowell: Oh, man. That’s tough. How many drivers do I get?

Jones: We’ll make up the rules as we go along. Let’s say four.

McDowell: Okay, a four-car team. Do I get to drive? Can I drive still?

Jones: Absolutely! 

McDowell: Yeah, yeah! I’d like to drive! Alright, myself, Carl Edwards, my buddy Trevor Bayne and, hmm, I get one more? It’s a toss-up between, no, it’d be Justin Allgaier. I’d put him in. He’s fun to have around.

Jones: And why did you pick those drivers?

McDowell: These are people I get along with, they have talent, and other than Carl, I wouldn’t have to pay them that much! (laughs)

Jones: Gotcha! Those are good reasons!

Often seen around the track with a smile on his face, one can see, without a doubt, McDowell "Love's" where he is with FRM. (Photo Credit: Front Row Motorsports.)

Often seen around the track with a smile on his face, one can see, without a doubt, McDowell “Love’s” where he is with FRM. (Photo Credit: Front Row Motorsports.)

 

To close out our time, I asked McDowell for more details regarding a video he shared last week noting his excitement for the 2021 season and hinting at a return to FRM. While optimistic about his future plans, he was unable to share any specific details at this time. Be sure to tune into his social channels, along with those for Front Row Motorsports, for all the latest news. 

 

I want to extend a huge thank you once again to Michael McDowell for taking the time to talk each month. It wouldn’t be possible without FRM for allowing this series to happen, so an additional thank you goes out to them. I hope our readers have enjoyed not only gaining his perspective on the sport, but also the fun, quick takes. We have one more installment to the Up Front with McDowell series, so stay tuned in November!

Terra Jones

As a life-long NASCAR fan and lover of words, I'm fortunate enough to put the two together here at The Podium Finish to bring our readers and motorsports fans news, features, and interviews from the world of wheels. Originally from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, I moved westward to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University. I now reside in central North Carolina with my husband, our three boys, and our dog, Charlotte. While my heart is at the race track, I also enjoy watching baseball, as well as college football and basketball. 

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