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Michael McDowell Records Season-Best Finish at Sonoma

(Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

SONOMA, Calif. — Michael McDowell has a strong road course racing background, and he put that experience to use Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. McDowell recorded a season-best third-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 and finished in the top 10 for the fifth time in the last eight races.

“I am proud of the entire team. This was a really solid weekend for our Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang,” McDowell said. “You have to run second, third, fourth and fifth consistently to put yourself in a position to win a race and we were close today.”

McDowell qualified for Sunday’s race in fourth and kept in the top five nearly all race. He pitted just before the end of Stage 1 to preserve track position after the caution and didn’t earn stage points. Stage 2 stayed completely green and McDowell again pitted just before the end of the stage. He did, however, finish eighth to record three stage points.

On Lap 61, Chris Buescher restarted from the lead with Daniel Suarez in second and McDowell in third. Suarez quickly passed Buescher and drove away. McDowell remained in third and pitted on Lap 83 along with most of the other contenders. While exiting pit road, Kyle Larson lost a wheel, bringing out a caution and resetting the field.

Suarez got a strong jump on the ensuing restart with 22 laps to go, but Buescher hung tight with him. However, both drove away from McDowell. Suarez later pulled away from Buescher and won the race while McDowell fell short of catching Buescher and finished third.

(Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

“We just needed a little more on the front end to challenge,” McDowell said. “We just fired off a little on the slow side but we were really good on the long run. We started to reel the leaders in there the last five laps but it just took a little too long to get going.”

Through 16 races, McDowell has a career-best six top 10 finishes, surpassing last season’s total of five. He started the 2022 season by finishing seventh in the Daytona 500, a race that he won in 2021. Later on, he recorded top-10 efforts at Bristol Dirt, Talladega, Darlington and Charlotte. Additionally, he led 34 laps last weekend at Gateway despite an 18th-place finish.

With 10 races until the playoffs, McDowell sits 20th in driver’s points. He trails Aric Almirola by 93 points for 16th in the playoff standings despite trailing by just 38 points in overall points. McDowell is likely in a must-win scenario to clinch a playoff spot.

“We’re not thinking about pointing our way into it,” McDowell said. “We look at it as we have to win to have a spot in that, so we’re just focusing on giving ourselves the best chance at that.”

The NASCAR Cup Series is off next weekend but will return to action on June 26 at Nashville Superspeedway. NBC kicks off its 2022 television coverage with the race.

 

Nathan Solomon is a sophomore in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as the Sports Editor for his campus newspaper, The BonaVenture, and as the programming director for his campus radio station, WSBU 88.3FM. The station is rated the No. 4 college radio station in the country by Princeton Review. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute New York Yankees' content and started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021. He is also an NMPA journalist.

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