Without question, the most pleasant surprise of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season to date has been the seemingly out-of-nowhere emergence of veteran Michael McDowell. Since sending shockwaves through the NASCAR world by earning career victory No. 1 at the Daytona 500, a race that marked his 358th start in NASCAR’s top series, McDowell has proven that his Daytona breakthrough was no fluke. In the two races that have followed, the Front Row Motorsports driver has finished eighth and sixth, respectively.
Even more impressive might be the fact that McDowell’s strong finishes have come on three very different types of tracks: a superspeedway, a road course and an intermediate track. No wonder McDowell is feeling reasonably confident heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another intermediate track, this weekend.
“My guys have done a great job,” he said. “We’ve made our cars a little bit lighter, a little bit more downforce, and we’ve made some small gains, but I don’t feel like we’ve done anything different or special as far as engines and chassis and all those things. We’re still getting the same equipment that we got last year. I feel like we’re executing better, and I feel like starting up front helps a tremendous amount. When you start 25th or 30th, it’s just hard to dig yourself out of that hole, so I think that the track position helped us early on. Obviously, we had a car capable of it, but I think there’s a lot of factors to it.”