03/10 2018

Glendale’s Michael McDowell excited about working with his new NASCAR team Michael Knight


Special for azcentral sports

(Photo: Sean Logan, Sean Logan/The Republic)


Michael McDowell has a new seat for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – and it’s in the Front Row.

When Kasey Kahne replaced him in the No. 95 Leavine Family Chevy after four years, the Glendale driver joined Front Row Motorsports as David Ragan’s teammate. McDowell started with a ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500.

“I’m really impressed,” McDowell said Friday before getting in his No. 34 K-Love Radio Ford at ISM Raceway for the TicketGuardian 500’s first practice session. “At (Las) Vegas (Motor Speedway) last weekend was an indication to me what we potentially could be. We had top 15 speed all weekend, sometimes top 10, which is really crazy.”

But debris through his radiator sent him to the garage.

Front Row is a small team, of about 60, so McDowell’s cars are interchangeable with Ragan’s. McDowell and Ragan are friends away from the track, a plus since the first Arizona driver ever to win a NASCAR national series event hasn’t had a teammate in years.

“When David out-runs me, I know I have to step-up my game,” McDowell, 33, continued with a laugh. “I’m used to being self-motivated. You’re always pushing and striving, but when you see somebody that does something better than you, and you can analyze it, it only makes you better.

“It’s great to have a teammate because you can be more aggressive in practice, try some things that are a little out-of-the-box. But you know you can migrate right back to where you’re teammate’s at. Our alliance with Roush Fenway (Racing; drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne) helps with that, as well. We can lean on their notes to see what’s working and not working. Our approach here is to be a little more aggressive in practice as far as testing, rather than tuning. If it doesn’t work out, Sunday morning, we’ll bolt in our teammate’s setting and go race.”

McDowell’s best finish in 14 ISMR starts is 22nd.