NASCAR Cup PR Ford Performance NASCAR: Phoenix 1 (Michael McDowell Media Availability)

Ford Performance NASCAR: Phoenix 1 (Michael McDowell Media Availability)

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NASCAR CUP SERIES
PHOENIX RACEWAY
FANSHIELD 500
FORD PERFORMANCE DRIVER MEDIA AVAILABILITY
FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2020

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang

YOU HAVE A CAMPAIGN AT FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS THAT I KNOW YOU WANTED TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT TODAY: “Yeah, at the beginning of this season we just wanted to find a few things that we were passionate about that we could support throughout the year and help get our partners behind. For this first quarter it was all about driving safe and taking the pledge to doing that. It just so happened that shortly after we launched that campaign my wife had a pretty serious car accident and it became very real and personal at that point. It was something that can totally be prevented. A guy ran a red light, just not paying attention, and it was a pretty serious accident. It definitely got my attention and my family’s attention and brought awareness that we all have a responsibility and we take it for granted out there on the road. There are a lot of loved ones and family members and we have four kids riding around with my wife so I am very thankful everybody was okay but it was definitely a reality check.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW TEAMMATE, JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK, AND WHAT HE BRING TO THE TABLE AND WHAT IT HAS BEEN LIKE WITH A ROOKIE TEAMMATE THIS YEAR? “I get asked that question a lot and it is really hard to put that into words because I just don’t know yet. I don’t mean that negatively. John Hunter is a great kid and his work ethic is great and he has done a good job in the car but as far as the dynamic of developing the team and where we go directionally, we are so new into the season that it is hard to tell what that will look like. Our crews have worked together for quite some time, so as far as crew chiefs and engineers and how that goes, the chemistry is really good. There just hasn’t been a whole lot to discuss yet. Now that we have gotten through Vegas and California and onto our first short track, that will give us a better feeling of what we need to be working on moving forward and all those things. So far, so good. He has done a great job but it is hard to replace David Ragan. He brings a lot to the table. He has been a great teammate for years. Also just knows the culture at Front Row. I think it is hard for a young guy coming into the sport, coming into the Cup Series. It is challenging. You guys see that with the rookies this year, they are doing a good job but you can take stand-out guys that win lots of races and challenge for championships that start to look average in the Cup Series. It is a really tough transition. I think he has done a great job and in the rookie class is doing pretty good for where he is at. He just has to keep managing the races and getting everything out of it. So far he has done a good job.”

HOW ARE THE HIGH WINDS, WITH BLOWING DUST ONTO THE TRACK, A FACTOR FOR QUALIFYING AND THE RACE? “Here in the desert it is obviously dusty and you always sort of have a breeze going on. Today is probably stronger than normal but the grandstands do a good job of blocking all of that. The toughest thing is when the track sits for an amount of time with no cars on it. Right now, it is pretty steady. There are ARCA cars running and the surface stays clean. Xfinity cars will go out and then the Cup cars. Traditionally what happens here is when the track sits for an hour or two the dirt kind of gets stuck on there and the first few cars in qualifying really struggle. With qualifying being tomorrow, a different schedule, I think that the circumstances will be a little different. When you are on the race track you can definitely feel the wind, in particular when it changes. At these shorter tracks, New Hampshire, places like that, wind doesn’t affect the balance a tremendous amount. Especially with the way the grandstands are positioned. You aren’t getting hit in funny angles or things like that where you feel it at Daytona and Texas and Vegas and other places where the wind can really move the car around.”

YOUR WIFE IS OKAY AFTER THAT WRECK, CORRECT? “Yeah, she didn’t have any broken bones or anything like that. She is a little beat up. A little sore. It is probably taking a little longer to recover than she thought. You have an accident like that and you feel fine and then the adrenaline wears off and the next day you are sore. Now we are a couple weeks later and she is still pretty sore. Everything is going to be fine but she is definitely still sore.”

WAS HER EXPEDITION A WRITE OFF? “Yeah. Total write off. That part of it was fun. That is my first experience going through that. We could talk all day about insurance and how that works. I have a lot of knowledge about that right now, so if you have any questions you just let me know.”

WE ARE A YEAR REMOVED FROM THE THROWDOWN, ARE YOU ABLE TO LAUGH ABOUT THAT WITH DANIEL (SUAREZ) YET? “I was able to laugh about it the next day. Daniel and I have a great relationship. If anything our relationship is better since then. I think that it is very easy to get sports and personal mixed because you live it and you are in it. To me, that is part of being an athlete, being a driver, it is high intensity and adrenaline is going so it is just kind of part of it.”

HAVE YOU HAD YOUR WIFE AND CHILDREN OUT HERE AROUND WHERE YOU HAVE GROWN UP BEFORE? “Yeah, for years we have been coming out. Now my kids are older and in school so it is hard to pull them out of school for a long period of time and the west coast swing is hard. We were out here at Christmas. My wife and I are both from out here so all our family is still out here. We spent about 10 days out here during the holidays. During the race weekend it is tough. You don’t get to do as much as you think you would. Today is a pretty long day. After you do your post practice meetings you get dinner and go to bed and then you start it over. It is hard to have a lot of family time during the race weekend.”

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU DON’T GET TO DO THAT YOU WOULD REALLY LIKE TO GO BACK AND DO OR EXPERIENCE AGAIN WHEN YOU COME OUT HERE? “I love karting. That is what I grew up doing. I grew up at the cart track in North Phoenix. I was there at least every other day for 15 years of my life. I grew up six miles from there. I would ride my bike to the go kart track. I would like to just come back for a couple days and just have some fun and get to drive. But I get to do that at home too. That would be one thing. The season gets busy so the off-season is really your time to do it. The weather is so nice right now it would be great to take a boat out and go fishing today but I don’t think that is going to happen.”

WITH FRONT ROW GOING TO A TWO-CAR TEAM, HAS THAT BEEN BENEFICIAL AS FAR AS YOU GUYS BEING ABLE TO RUN BETTER AND NOT WORRYING ABOUT THREE TEAMS RUNNING? “I think yes and no. I think that one thing I know for sure is that we were able to obviously when you have three cars you have some extra people, so in the off-season we were able to combine some teams and pull from here and there and mix things up a little bit. I feel really good about what we did personnel wise. I think that this west coast swing is challenging no matter what, especially for a medium level team. I went to the shop on Monday and there was one car in there. Our entire inventory was on the road being swapped out, transported. You go in there and you go, ‘Man, where are all our race cars?’ The west coast swing is tough. Once we get past that I think we will start to see the fruit of going from three to two with just being able to be more caught up and prepared. Like I said, the biggest thing is personnel. Being able to move things around and change small things with personality and culture and put people together that work better together. I think these changes we made in the off-season were good.”

YOU HAD A GREAT QUALIFYING EFFORT LAST WEEKEND, IS THAT SOMETHING THE TEAM HAS BEEN TRYING TO WORK ON? “We have been doing the opposite actually. With the 1.5 mile package or last week in California it is a 2-mile track, the intermediate tracks, with this particular package, you can run less downforce and have some speed in your car. Then you pay the price in the race. So last year we had a couple top-five, couple top-10 qualifying efforts and then dropped the green flag and we really struggled. So we changed the approach for this year and before California I would have told you we were going to qualify 25th. We had as much downforce as we could possibly build into the car and still qualified well. There is some good and bad there. The good was we weren’t tricking ourselves. The bad thing was that we still need to build more downforce into our cars. That is something we have to work on to help them race better. Then the news came out this week about the Clash being on the road course and I told Drew that we should bring our Daytona car to Atlanta next week and sit on the pole and make it happen. He said that was a bad idea and I wouldn’t enjoy myself on Sunday if I did that. There were a few moments where I felt like it was a good idea. Humor aside, there will be a weekend where we are going to go for it because I think it is a cool event and I have the most laps out of anybody that is in the Cup Series in Daytona on the road course and I would love to be able to be in that Clash and do that. I think you will see us pull out all the stops and try to get one.”

CAN YOU RUN THIS PACKAGE ON THE ROAD COURSE AT DAYTONA? CAN YOU RUN 750 HORSEPOWER? “For sure. I haven’t even thought about what they will do as far as that package goes. Have they talked about that?”

THEY JUST SAID IT WILL BE THIS CAR, SO RIGHT NOW YOU ASSUME IT WILL BE THIS PACKAGE: “I think you would be okay. I think that turn six coming on the banking would probably be about a 45 mile per hour corner for our cars so I bet you would be close to 200 for a short period of time before you got on the brakes but I am no engineer. I hope it is 750. That is what I would pull for. Our cars are so much better than they used to be, the brakes and everything else. I feel like we could put on a really good show there. Hopefully they keep all the power in it.”

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