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Michael McDowell Drives To Runner-Up Finish At Sonoma

Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell racing at Sonoma Raceway during the Toyota Save Mart 350. (Photo: Aaron Brink | The Podium Finish)

SONOMA, Calif. — Whenever it is time for the NASCAR Cup Series to race on a road course, veteran Michael McDowell is always circled as a potential threat, especially after winning at Indianapolis a season ago.

A win would have been huge for McDowell and the No. 34 team as they have been below the playoff cutline for most of the season and find themselves in must-win territory.

McDowell brought the speed to Sonoma and after qualifying in 12th showed great pace and after all the differing strategies were complete came home with a second-place finish.

After getting involved in a caution on Lap 40 with Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson, McDowell had to come from the back and come through the field once more, which made the second-place finish an achievement but may have cost McDowell the win.

“I think if we could’ve kept our track position there and not had to come back down pit road to fix the damage, we would have had 10 or so more spots forward, and that would’ve been 10 less cars that I had to pass to get the front,” McDowell told reporters post-race.

Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell racing during the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo: Aaron Brink | The Podium Finish)

“I’m proud of the effort. I’m proud of the speed, but we just desperately needed a win and didn’t get it done today.”

During the closing stages of the race, the strategy deployed by the No. 34 team allowed McDowell to have a tire advantage over most of the speed and was running similar lap times as the leader and eventual winner Kyle Larson, but needed a lot more time.

“As it started to cycle out I knew that we had to run down the leaders and we had fresher tires than some of them, but (Kyle) Larson had the freshest tires of all,” said McDowell. “It just didn’t go our way.”

Despite moving up to 20th in the Cup Series standings, McDowell still sits 93 points below the playoff cut line with 10 races remaining in the regular season, putting him in must-win territory.

Needing a win makes the runner-up finish sting for McDowell, especially with the close call at Talladega earlier this season and even at Texas where McDowell spun out while battling for the lead.

“It was a great recovery no doubt but we’ve just had too many missed opportunities this year,” said McDowell. “In the (NASCAR) Cup Series you have to be perfect to win a race, and we just weren’t perfect today, but were close.”

Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell racing at Sonoma Raceway during race No. 16 for the NASCAR Cup Series. (Photo: Aaron Brink | The Podium Finish)

The missed opportunities does not discourage McDowell though, it allows him to have confidence in the team to reach Victory Lane and qualify for the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

“I believe wholeheartedly we will win a race before the end of this regular season,” McDowell said. “We have the speed and we have the team to do it we just have to put it all together.”



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