Michael McDowell is one of the kindest people in NASCAR. He’s welcoming, fun to be around and, most of all, he cares about others. Finally, one of the most genuine racers in the sport is a race winner. McDowell crossed the finish line first in the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports, earning his first triumph in 357 races. Now, the driver of the No. 34 Ford Mustang is in the playoffs for the first time. And he believes that with Front Row’s hard work, he can perform well throughout 2021. Out of the Groove sat down with McDowell on Thursday morning to get his thoughts on his remarkable performance.
BY JOSEPH WOLKIN
“Coming to the white flag, I felt like I was in a really good position. We were in third behind our Ford teammates. We were lined up, and I felt like I was in a good spot, knowing Brad Keselowski would obviously try to make a pass for the lead. I knew Joey Logano would challenge and put on a block. I felt like it would create an opportunity, and it didn’t work out exactly like I thought. Brad got a good run coming down the back straightaway, and then they made contact. They spun, and I went right through the middle. It was a wild finish to an amazing race. To win my first race, do it at Daytona and to be the Daytona 500 champion is unbelievable.”
“Yeah, absolutely. I felt like I was ahead of him the whole time. I really did feel like we were ahead. Then, you start having those doubts, like, ‘Oh man, what if we didn’t win?’ It was a long 60 or 90 seconds waiting for NASCAR to give us the official word of who won. When they finally did, it was a lot of relief. I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy. It’s so special and hard to describe.”
“It is amazing. There’s elements of it that have sunk in. I know it’s legitimate and real, but the overall magnitude hasn’t sunk in. It’s a whirlwind media tour, and it’s a bit of a distraction from taking it all in. It’s been really fun and enjoyable to relive the moment. I’m experiencing it over and over again.”
“There’s been a lot of crazy parts to it. But the most meaningful part has been the response from the NASCAR community, competitors and all of the people who I’ve worked with over the years. People are legitimately excited and happy for me. It means a lot, and I’ve had incredible texts and phone calls from legends in our sport. It’s been really special.”
“There’s a lot of things that have happened over the last three years that have put us in this situation. Front Row is a great family atmosphere. We’re a small team -- there’s no doubt about it. We can make adjustments, changes and move things around. We’ve been able to put great people in great positions to improve our team. Drew Blickensderfer is a big part of that. He’s done a great job of leading this [No.] 34 crew. Our relationship is very unique. Drew and I both are very intense. We want it and also can fight, disagree and push each other. When we make a mistake, we can admit it to each other and no one is getting offended. We keep grinding. He believes in me, and I believe in him.”