Michael McDowell Breaks New Ground With Career Day

Michael McDowell

Getty Michael McDowell just turned in a career-best performance.

The driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang just turned in a career day. Michael McDowell finished third overall in the Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway behind Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher, which was his first top-five finish away from a superspeedway.

The veteran entered the race weekend with five career top-five finishes. Three were at Daytona International Speedway — including his 2021 Daytona 500 win. The other two were at Talladega Superspeedway. McDowell’s sixth top-five finish was at a road course, and it helped him secure another 37 points.

McDowell has achieved some success at road courses during his Cup Series career. He has two top-10 finishes at the Daytona Road Course (10th in 2020, eighth in 2021), as well as a seventh-place finish at Circuit of the Americas in the rain-shortened 2021 race. Now he has set a new bar in what was his 409th Cup Series race.

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McDowell Continues To Surpass Previous Career Marks

Michael McDowell

GettyMichael McDowell (front) has continued to make major strides in 2022.

The third-place finish at Sonoma Raceway was important for McDowell considering that he moved up one more spot in the championship standings. It also justified some comments made prior to the season.

McDowell told Heavy ahead of the Daytona 500 that he was in the prime of his career. He said that he has been a Cup Series competitor for several years but added that he is on the best team of his career. McDowell also said that he is the most prepared he has ever been.

The Arizona native hasn’t returned to Victory Lane, but he set a new career mark at Sonoma Raceway after entering the season with a considerable amount of confidence in himself. He notched his sixth top-10 finish of the season, which beat his previous best of five in 2021. This performance also helped McDowell improve his average finish from 18.3 to 17.3.

McDowell Will Draw Attention at Multiple Upcoming Tracks

Michael McDowell

GettyMichael McDowell races at Watkins Glen International in 2019.

McDowell has developed a reputation based on his success at NASCAR’s superspeedways. However, he has also showcased his ability to contend at road courses on multiple occasions across the national series. This includes a win at Road America during a 2016 Xfinity Series race.

If the first two road courses on the 2022 schedule are any indication, McDowell will draw attention during the remaining regular-season races. There are three more road courses before the playoffs, starting with Road America on July 3. The Cup Series drivers will then head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on July 31 and Watkins Glen International on August 21.

McDowell has one start each at Indianapolis and Road America, both of which resulted in 30th-place finishes. He has 12 starts at Watkins Glen International, a run that includes five consecutive DNFs in 2011-2014. However, McDowell has five top-20 finishes at the New York road course in his past six starts.

McDowell doesn’t have the best stats at the remaining road courses on the regular-season schedule. However, he has contended on a more regular basis during the 2022 season while partnering with a new crew chief in Blake Harris. The two men have developed a strong working relationship while trying to take the No. 34 back to Victory Lane.

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