Michael McDowell and Front Row Motorsports have returned to the top of the heap in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Don’t get your signals crossed, though, the win in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not an upset – or a fluke for that matter – but rather complete and total domination.
The 38-year-old driver was the driver to beat throughout the entire weekend, albeit quietly, pacing Saturday’s 20-minute practice session from the 2.438-mile road course, before posting a fourth-place qualifying result.
“Oh man, this is such a dream come true. I’m so thankful to everyone at Front Row Motorsports, Bob Jenkins, Horizon Hobby, Fr8 Auctions, Chicago Pneumatic,” said McDowell. “Man, we had a fast Ford Mustang. Everybody at Roush Yates engine shop, Doug, these guys gave me everything today. We had the fastest car. We executed, and we did what we needed to do.”
After a second-lap caution, the only one throughout the entire duration of Sunday’s 82-lap contest, McDowell didn’t take long to move his way through to the lead, passing Daniel Suarez to take the lead on the sixth lap of the race.
McDowell paced the field for the majority of the event, but had consistent challenges from the likes of Daniel Suarez and Chase Elliott, both of whom, like McDowell, were fighting for their lives in the NASCAR Cup Series post-season.
In the end, it was a flawless execution throughout the entire event that kept him ahead of two of the strongest organizations in the NASCAR Cup Series, as his No. 34 Ford Mustang crossed the start-finish line about one second ahead of Chase Elliott after leading a race-high 54 laps.
“I was really trying to pace myself. I figured there would be a late-race caution, and I didn’t want to burn my stuff up. I was just trying to maintain that gap. Then when I got into traffic, started closing, I had to push it, but I just can’t believe it,” McDowell added.
Chase Elliott made a strong rally in the final couple laps of the event, but came up just short, finishing in the runner-up position. Daniel Suarez came home in third, after a disastrous pit stop cost him a major amount of track position in the late stages.
Tyler Reddick, winner earlier this season at Circuit of The Americas, put together another top-five finish on the road course., coming home in fourth. Alex Bowman came home in fifth place.
Chase Briscoe, Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, and Shane van Gisbergen completed the top-10 at the conclusion of a long-winded 75-plus lap run that concluded an interesting weekend at Indianapolis.
McDowell’s victory, the second of his NASCAR Cup Series career, locks the No. 34 Ford Mustang into the post-season, for just the third time in his career.
Leaving Indianapolis, Martin Truex, Jr. holds a 60-point margin over Denny Hamlin for the regular-season championship with two races left. William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Larson completed the top-five in standings.
Now, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to another road course in Watkins Glen International next weekend, where McDowell will look to go back-to-back, with other drivers trying to break into the post-season just like McDowell did this afternoon.