Daytona and Indy? The Two to Win When You’ve Only Won Two

story by Paul Kelly of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, photos by Tim Hailey

Michael McDowell certainly has a flair for the dramatic on the biggest stages in NASCAR. Front Row Motorsports driver McDowell became the first driver in NASCAR Cup Series history whose first two career wins came at Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as he also won the 2021 Daytona 500.

McDowell drove to victory Sunday in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in the No. 34 Horizon Hobby Ford, beating Chase Elliott in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet to the finish by .937 of a second. It was his second career Cup Series victory.

“This is such a dream come true,” McDowell said. “Man, we had a fast Ford Mustang. We executed. We did what we needed to do. To put on a performance like that, I don’t know if it was dominant, but it felt pretty dominant to me.”

McDowell led 54 of the 82 laps around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. He passed pole sitter Daniel Suarez for the lead after the sole restart of the race (picture above in turn 2) on Lap 6 and only trailed thereafter during pit stops.

Ty Gibbs and Joey Logano get turned at the start

Arizona native McDowell cycled to the front for the last time on Lap 53 after a host of cars made their final pit stops. He led Elliott by 3.471 seconds on Lap 56, but Elliott gradually chipped away at that gap over the next 20 laps.

Elliott pulled to within 1.394 seconds with one lap to go as he and McDowell snaked through lapped traffic. Elliott gained even more ground on the final lap, but McDowell kept his composure and held on for victory.

“I was really trying to pace myself,” McDowell said. “I figured there would be a late-race caution. I didn’t want to burn my stuff up. I was just trying to maintain that gap, but then when I got into traffic, it (gap) started to close, so I had to push it.”

That caution never came, as the last 77 laps of the race ran under green.

Although the front of the field remained mostly settled, there were plenty of battles in the back—including this side-by-side between Andy Lally and Josh Bilicki.

“Congrats to Michael, man,” Elliott said. “He did a good job. He ran a great race, stayed mistake-free, and that’s what you’ve got to do to win.

“I lost too much ground under that pit cycle. I was just trying to pace myself for the long haul, kind of had that green flag feel. I thought I did that. I just needed to do a better job getting through traffic.”

Here’s Bilicki again on the other side of Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi

Suarez finished third in the No. 99 Freeway.com Chevrolet, 5.750 seconds behind McDowell. He could have contended for victory on pure pace but lost too much ground when an air hose got stuck under the left front tire when the jack dropped on one of his pit stops.

Michael McDowell

McDowell took an interesting path to the Victory Podium at the Brickyard. He started his career in open-wheel racing, winning the 2004 USF Pro 2000 championship and made two INDYCAR SERIES starts that year with Champ Car team Rocketsports, competing against reigning and two-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power at Surfers Paradise and Mexico City.

But then McDowell reached a fork in his career and turned to sports cars and then stock cars, making his 453rd Cup Series start today since his debut in NASCAR’s top series in 2008.

1 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford
2 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
3 Daniel Suarez Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet
4 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota
5 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
6 Chase Briscoe Stewart Haas Racing Ford
7 Martin Truex Jr Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
8 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
9 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
10 Shane van Gisbergen Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet
11 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford
12 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
13 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford
14 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford
15 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
16 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
17 Ross Chastain TrackHouse Racing Chevrolet
18 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota
19 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
20 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford
21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford
22 Brodie Kostecki Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
23 Kevin Harvick Stewart Haas Racing Ford
24 Mike Rockenfeller Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet
25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
26 AJ Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
27 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
28 Jenson Button Rick Ware Racing Ford
29 Andy Lally Rick Ware Racing Ford
30 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
31 Aric Almirola Stewart Haas Racing Ford
32 Josh Bilicki Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet
33 Ryan Preece Stewart Haas Racing Ford
34 Kamui Kobayashi 23XI Racing Toyota
35 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
36 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet
37 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
39 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet

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