Season update with NASCAR driver Michael McDowell

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell discussed his season, changes with the new aero package and qualifying.

Michael McDowell, a 12 year veteran in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, talked with Motor Racing Digest at Richmond Raceway. The driver of the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports discussed his 2019 season so far, the changes under the new aero package and his goal for the rest of the season.

How would you rate your season so far?

For me I would I go with a C-. I think our cars have had okay speed and they’ve had good speed in qualifying. For myself this is probably the best I’ve qualified with our cars but we haven’t turned that into many race results other than Texas.

We executed well there but more than anything we just got to clean it up from mistakes and failures to strategy and pit stops and penalties. I feel like there’s still a lot of potential left. At time our cars have had speed so we just got to clean it all up.

How has the racing been different this season and how has that impacted your team?

The racing is new for everybody with this new package and we obviously took on a lot during the offseason expanding to three cars and moving. That’s what’s fun about NASCAR. You can be one week away from turning it around if you go out run towards the top, thinking that we got our stuff figured out. Then you go out next week and you get your butt kicked and you go back to the drawing board. That’s a little bit of what NASCAR’s like.

There’s so many different styles and tracks that just because you’re successful at a short track or for us an intermediate doesn’t mean that it’s going to correlate to everywhere you go. You’d like it to and the good teams obviously can do that so we’ve just got to be more consistent across the board.

Michael McDowell has scored the best finish of all Front Row Motorsports drivers this season, a fifth place in the Daytona 500. (World Copyright: Russell LaBounty, NKP)

What changes have you seen with the new aero package this year?

Every year a couple years they’re changing things so there’s been times where we’ve had this high downforce before. So this isn’t new. We might not have had the aero ducts but full power and still almost running wide open 220 miles per hour at some places.

So you kind of get used to the packages changing and you learn just to adapt quickly. You also just go as fast as the car will let you go and it doesn’t matter if it’s no downforce, a lot of downforce, a lot of power, no power, you just have to adapt.

Over the years I’ve seen packages fit driver styles such as Jeff Gordon where he might have struggled and then they went to a high downforce package and he was fast fast again. Jimmie Johnson is a really good low downforce package where he’s slip-sliding around the track and gets the most out of the car when they’re really edgy.

So you see these trends but as drivers you just have to learn to adapt and overcome and figure it out.

Would you like to see changes being made to the qualifying format?

Qualifying during the time of when we were doing single car qualifying was pretty exciting. I know that some people would disagree with that but from a driver standpoint and even as a fan watching it, you knew you were watching somebody get the very most out of their race car on the edge. That was fun to watch.

You could also focus on one car because they were the only car out there so you could watch it. When a car got loose or you know they had a big save or a big moment, it was focused in on that car and you could see it.

You miss some of that with all the action and excitement with group qualifying but I also think with this particular rule package qualifying won’t be that exciting if it’s single car.

Michael McDowell is still searching for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. (World Copyright: Nigel Kinrade, NKP)

What are your thoughts on the 2020 NASCAR schedule?

I think it’s great and we all would agree that it was much needed. Just looking at some of the dates where we’ve had weather issues and of course you can’t predict the weather, but we have a good history to look back on. It rains pretty much every single time we’re at Atlanta and Bristol and Richmond in the spring so I think NASCAR has put themselves in a better spot.

Moving Texas away from the opening day of hunting season in makes sense to me. You’re going to get a lot more fans there now that they’re not competing with probably the largest sporting event in the state of Texas. I think we’re all excited about it.

What is your goal by the next time we visit Richmond Raceway?

I really have one goal and that’s to win a race. Hopefully by then we’re talking about being in the playoffs. We know winning a race is not something that we have a chance to do every weekend but there are five or six races a year that we can. I’ve been doing this a long time and would love to close that chapter.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.