Ford Performance NASCAR: Michael McDowell Media Availability Transcript

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang – WHAT IS YOUR KENTUCKY OUTLOOK? “Kentucky has, I don’t want to say historically, but historically has been a night time race from what I can remember, so a midday race is gonna be hot and slick and should make for some good racing. I’m looking forward to it. It was a good race for us last year in regards to speed. We had a lot of speed and I made a mistake on pit road and took us out of a good shot of having a solid finish, so we’re looking to redeem ourselves this year at Kentucky and we’ve been looking forward to this weekend just because of the fact we had so much speed there last year and was probably one of the best racetracks that we had last year.”

A LOT OF SPECULATION THAT THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE WILL REPLACE WATKINS GLEN ON THE SCHEDULE. HOW WOULD THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE RACE WITH A CUP CAR? YOU’VE DRIVEN ON IT BEFORE. “Yeah, so it’ll be a good race. It’s a good racetrack with good passing zones. It’s a true Roval in the sense that when you’re in the banking you’re at high speed, so we’ll be 180-185 miles an hour on the banking coming down into turn one and hard braking, all those things, so I think it’ll create a lot of passing opportunities. With guys not having a lot of experience it is a challenging track, so I feel like you could see a lot of mistakes and a lot of offs, but it’s different than, say, Charlotte Roval, where when you make a mistake at Charlotte Roval there is no forgiveness. You’re into a concrete barrier, where at the infield at Daytona you have quite a bit of run off and quite a bit of gap in-between the sections, so I feel like you could make a mistake and not end your day. There is good run off in the deep braking zones, so there are opportunities to push it hard without jeopardizing your entire day.”


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I THINK THEY’RE GOING TO GO WITH THE ROAD COURSE PACKAGE, 750 HP. WOULD THE SPEEDS BE OKAY ON THE OVAL PART EVEN WITH THAT MUCH HORSEPOWER? “Yes, I think it will be. You’re coming out of the bus stop and you’re coming out of turn six still fairly slow in our cars. When you watch the 24 Hour, you watch a prototype go through there, a prototype exits at 100 miles an hour. We’ll be exiting out of that corner at 60, so I don’t think you’re gonna see 200 miles an hour by the time you get to the start-finish line just because of the fact that even with our current package if we ran the entire banking, the entire oval, yeah, we’d be 220 miles an hour and that would be too fast, but I think coming out of the corners at 40 or 50 miles an hour you’re not gonna have to worry about seeing speeds over 200.”

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON POTENTIALLY NOT RACING AT THE GLEN THIS YEAR? “I love the Glen. It’s one of my favorite tracks and so I’d hate for it to not be on the schedule, but this year is crazy and there’s so much going on, and obviously we can only go where we can go and where it’s safe to go. You can’t worry too much about that. As much as I’m upset that we can’t go to Watkins or potentially not go to Watkins Glen, it’s probably somewhat an advantage for me to go to Daytona just because the laps that I have there and the seat time that I have there compared to some of the other drivers, but it’s still hard because Watkins Glen is definitely one of my favorite tracks.”

WHAT HAPPENED ON PIT ROAD AT INDIANAPOLIS? HOW DID YOU LOOK AT THAT? “Indy is always really challenging with pit road. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen at Indy just because of the fact that it’s so narrow on the entry, it kind of funnels down. Instead of having two lanes plus pit lane, which is typically what we have, you really have a lane-and-a-half plus the pit stall, so that’s where it makes it challenging. There’s really only one lane there and we’ve seen it not just on the entry, but the exit too at Indy, that it kind of funnels down. Guys are trying to merge into the fast lane and can’t because there’s somebody there. Yes, it would be nice if it was wider, but, I’m gonna say this and I’ll probably catch a little flack, but you also have to use your head. It’s a competition caution. It’s the first pit stop at Indy. We’re at Indy. We all know that pit road is challenging at Indy, so you’ve got to pay attention and that’s the bottom line. We should be able to do it with no problem, but these things happen.”

IS DAYTONA ROAD COURSE IN AND WATKINS GLEN OUT THE BIGGEST THING YOU NOTICE ON THE SCHEDULE? “I think there are a couple different factors to it. I think one is that the really talented guys in our sport will figure it out. I mean, they just do. I could go through the list, but there are a lot of them that will just figure it out quickly because they’re that good. There are other guys that have learned to do well at the road courses because they’ve been going there for 10 years to those same two road courses and they know it just like they know Bristol or Martinsville or anywhere else. They know exactly what they need to do, so I think that there will be an advantage for guys that have been there and have seat time, in particular if there’s no practice. I don’t know what that looks like. They haven’t really talked about that, but if we just stay on the trend that we’re on now, which is no practice, I think guys like myself and Jimmie and Kurt and Kyle and I don’t know who else currently has done it, but there are a couple others that would have a significant advantage for sure. But, at the same time, the good guys will still be good by the end of the race, but I do think it is an opportunity. I do hope that we get to run Watkins Glen. I would love to do that. I don’t know if it’s officially that we’re not, but it’s one of my favorite tracks, but Daytona is great and it’ll be a fun race, it’ll be a good race – a lot of passing, exciting for the fans and we’ll just make it all work.”

HOW HAS IT BEEN WITH NO PRACTICE AND NO QUALIFYING FOR YOU? “Our cars have had more speed this year than we’ve ever had at Front Row, so that’s helped us, obviously, with performance and getting the results that we need to get. But they’ve done an exceptional job unloading really close without any practice and having our cars very competitive, which is hard to do. But the downside, like Drew mentioned, is we had a mechanical failure early on in the year and that hurt us in the points and then, for the most part we’ve been starting 26th, 27th, 30th, 32nd every weekend, so that’s tough. We’re only a handful of points out of the top 24 in owner points, so it would be nice to get there. The unfortunate part is that my teammate is the next one in front of us, so we’d like to have both cars in the top 24 in owner points so that we can both start up front and I think we’re maybe 10 or 12 points back from that, so it’s not impossible but we’ve got some work to do. If we keep running how we’ve been running the last three or four weeks we should be able to get ourselves in there and not have to start so far back.”

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH JOHN HUNTER AND HOW HAS HE ELEVATED THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR TEAM AND ALL OF FRONT ROW? “That’s a tricky question because I don’t want to downplay how well John Hunter has done because he’s done an exceptional job. I mean, he’s going great. He’s ahead of me in points and has been running very well, but a lot of this sport is timing and we’ve been slowly building this program over a long time, but for me the last three years and we started to see that at the end of last year and we started to make some decent improvements and then this year everything has just come full circle and we’ve really improved all the cars and people and processes, so I think he’s getting the benefit of three, four, five, six, seven years of a lot of people’s hard work, but he’s doing a good job making the most out of it and executing. Like I said, that’s not to take anything away from him, but John Hunter didn’t bring this speed to Front Row. Front Row was building that over years and he’s very fortunate that he’s got the opportunity this year while the cars are so good, just like I am. I’m so excited to be contending for top 10s and top 15s, but it wasn’t always like that. I feel for David Ragan and Matt Tifft and those guys, and David Gilliland, that were grinding it out when it wasn’t that much fun and we weren’t that competitive. It’s a team effort, no doubt about it. Seth Barbour, his crew chief, has been with the organization for a long time and has done a great job of elevating it, alongside with Drew and Derrick Finley and a lot of people, so I think that this sport, like I said, it’s a lot about timing and his timing is really good right now to be in our cars and have them running as well as they are.”

JOHN HUNTER SAID YOU’VE STEPPED UP YOUR GAME THIS YEAR. HAS THERE BEEN ANY CHANGE ON YOUR PREPARATION THIS YEAR FROM YEAR’S PAST? “It’s kind of always evolving, so, yes and no. I mean, my level of intensity, I feel like, has been the same even throughout all the years, but you learn where you’ve got to be stronger and where you’ve got to be better and that’s changing as rule package changes, as cars change and all those things, but I definitely feel like I’ve improved this year in a few areas. You’re always working hard to continue to be better and better. I think everybody does that. John Hunter definitely has helped with that just from the standpoint of when somebody gets in and goes fast in your race cars, you know that they’re capable, so then you just have to figure out what you need and what you have to do to extract more. So we’ve been able to push each other in that and that definitely helps, so having a teammate that’s fast and can push you is super-important, and he’s definitely done that, so it’s been good.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON POTENTIALLY TWO DOUBLEHEADERS AT MICHIGAN AND DOVER? “Doubleheaders are fun. Obviously, Pocono on Saturday went great for me, Sunday did not go so well, but, at the same time, what’s neat is that for the most part you go to a racetrack and you learn so much in the race and you just can’t wait to get back and make improvements. That might be Pocono, I think was the quickest turnaround in the schedule over the years – maybe like two months – but for a lot of the tracks you go there in April and you don’t go back there again until September or something like that. So it’s fun to be able to get done with the race, talk about what you need to do, make adjustments, and then go do it again the next day when you already have that rhythm and you already have all those things that it takes a little bit to get, so I enjoy it. I think it’s fun. Obviously, the first one didn’t go so great for us with having a good run on Saturday and not such a good run on Sunday, but I think it’s definitely, for me, I think it’s neat to be able to go back the next day and work on it.”

JOHN HUNTER SAID HE’S A DATA JUNKIE. ARE YOU IN THAT SAME KIND OF CAMP AND HAS JOHN’S LOVE OF THE NUMBERS OPENED A DOOR FOR YOU? “Two things, just to kind of put it into context a little bit. What you’ve got to remember is that John Hunter and I aren’t really working together right now all that much because of COVID and the protocols, so we’re not sitting in those meetings at the shop together. We’re kind of doing these Zoom calls just like this and so you don’t have that personal interaction that you would have under normal years and normal circumstances, where you practiced, you come into the hauler, you look through the data, you talk about what you had, you talk about the changes that were good, the changes that were bad and all those things. That’s all gone now, so my interaction with John Hunter is very limited to a 10 or 15-minute call like this, where we kind of just briefly go over what we had for the weekend and what it looked like. I just wanted to kind of put that in context. If we were both sitting in the hauler, I think we would really enjoy that because, to answer your question, I’ve always enjoyed the technical aspect and the data side of things. Coming from Indy car and sports car, where you had live telemetry and data and that was something that you used every practice, every session. It’s only been in NASCAR a handful of years, so, for me, I’ve always been into the data and able to run and operate all that and enjoy doing that, so I spend a lot of time studying video and SMT and data and looking at trends and things like that, and it sounds like he does as well. I know that sounds like there’s a big gap there, but that gap is because we’re not in the haulers together, we’re not in the shop together, we’re not interacting like you would under normal circumstances and normal teammates because of the protocols in place and trying to keep the drivers quarantined to their little bubble and the crews quarantined to their bubbles, so this year is very different, but, yes, I would imagine we’re doing a lot of the same things.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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