Chasing The Underdogs

Chasing The Underdogs: Michael McDowell Perseveres For Solid 18th-Place Finish


Michael McDowell has had a roller coaster season in his first year with Leavine Family Racing. The team failed to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500, but then when the series returned to the 2.5-mile superspeedway in July, McDowell recorded just his second-ever top-10 finish in Sprint Cup Series competition. A few weeks ago at Watkins Glen, McDowell was in the middle of a horrific crash that spawned an hour and a half long red flag. Now this week at Bristol he and the No. 95 team put together their second-best effort of 2014.

Sunday was a big day for McDowell as he welcomed a new sponsor — Thrivent Financial — onto his No. 95 Ford Fusion. McDowell as a result received some pre-race press, and even dropped by Claire B. Lang’s pre-race show on Sirius XM Radio.

From there McDowell, who is one of the most faithful drivers in the garage area, led the field for the invocation before climbing into his car to start the IRWIN Tools Night Race from the 28th position. McDowell began the race with a tight race car, and in the early stages of the event he made little to no progress through the field.

By lap 125 McDowell had fallen a lap off the pace, but a big melee which brought out a caution on the next lap would get McDowell back on the lead lap by way of the free pass. Crew chief Wally Rogers would then begin some big swings to try to free up McDowell’s car. By lap 165, McDowell had moved his way to 17th and it appeared his car was finally something he could work with. Just past the halfway point of the race, McDowell would find himself a lap down again as he had suffered slight damage in driving through the field that affected his handling. Luckily for McDowell though, a caution on lap 265 saved him again, and brought him back to the lead lap.

Over the back-end of the race McDowell would get into shoving matches with Danica Patrick, and he would eventually fall two laps off the pace from the leaders. However McDowell would hang tough to finish a very respectable 18th. McDowell would tweet his excitement for his team’s great run on Saturday night.

After the race, McDowell’s No. 95 car sported the markings you’d expect after the Bristol night race.

For a little team that could, this run is like a shot in the arm, and perhaps now they can build momentum from here. Keep an eye out for McDowell, who will be running the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle colors this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

How did the other Underdogs fare in Bristol?

AJ Allmendinger, 14th
Justin Allgaier, 19th
Landon Cassill, 22nd
David Ragan, 23rd
Reed Sorenson, 24th
David Gilliland, 25th
Josh Wise, 29th
Cole Whitt, 30th
David Stremme, 31st
Alex Bowman, 32nd
JJ Yeley, 33rd
Ryan Truex, 37th
Michael Annett, 38th
Aric Almirola, 41st
Brett Moffitt, 42nd
Dave Blaney, 43rd

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About Toby Christie

Toby Christie is the Senior Writer for Rubbings Racing. He has been watching NASCAR since 1993, and has covered the sport as a media member since 2007. Toby is a proud member of the NMPA. Additionally, Toby is a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan, subpar guitarist and he is pretty good around a mini-golf course.

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1 Comment

  1. Pat Draper

    August 28, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Michael has to be one of if not the nicest driver in nascar. He is so upbeat and always has a smile on his face. There are some drivers that should be more like Michael and appreciate an 18th place finish like he does. Most of your nascar drivers are not happy with a second place finish. You keep up the good work Michael, I’m one of your biggest fans.

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