Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Needing a win, McDowell says: 'It hurts to complete second'

McDowell, who typically performs well on road courses and superspeedways – and has won the NASCAR Cup Series on each – noted that Sunday's race has a first-rate opportunity to capture his first victory of the 2024 season.

For McDowell, victory is probably going the one way he’ll make the 16-driver playoffs after a difficult begin to the season that left him stuck twentieth within the standings.

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On the newly renovated 3.99-mile track, McDowell's No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford was fast in practice and qualifying. He began the race from twelfth position and rode a solid first stage.

However, after McDowell was forced back onto the sphere as a consequence of pit strategy, there was an incident with Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric shortly after the restart on stage two, forcing him to pit for repairs.

Still, after 51 green-flag laps at the top of the race, McDowell slowly caught as much as the leaders, and when Martin Truex Jr. ran out of fuel early in the ultimate lap, McDowell – briefly, anyway – saw a glimmer of hope for victory.

Kyle Larson held on for over 4 seconds to overtake McDowell for the win, and McDowell made a powerful comeback, but his playoff hopes are dwindling.

Michael McDowell, Motorsports Front Row, Love's Journey Stops the Ford Mustang

Michael McDowell, Motorsports Front Row, Love's Journey Stops the Ford Mustang

Photo: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport images

“The first stage went well for us, we just executed our plan and strategy, but unfortunately when we got to the back after the restart and they were stuck in the es, we just hit the barriers.” McDowell said.

“It really hurt our track position because then we needed to go to pit road and repair the damage, which type of killed our probabilities of getting back on the front after coming off the bike, but luckily we had a very fast (automobile).

“We managed to get about half of them back before the end of the second stage, and in the last stage we had to fight really hard to get track position.”

The encouraging, if frustrating, a part of Sunday's race for McDowell was that he believed his team showed it had the potential to get a much-needed victory.

“I feel like we had the speed and that hurts. Finishing second within the race hurts,” he said. “We desperately need a win to make the playoffs, but I'm happy with the hassle and speed we achieved.

“Just a little short.”

McDowell said he probably would have needed assist in the ultimate laps to have a likelihood to catch as much as Larson when Truex fell to the side of the road.

“I pushed pretty hard. I don't understand how way more I could achieve,” he said. “I needed (Larson) to fight (Truex) slightly more and even (Chris Buescher) because when he got here out on the brand new tires he was just faster than us.

“I couldn't stop him, but I knew in the long term we could probably keep our balance and gain some speed. Our strength was the long series. It's only a shame.”

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