Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

2020 Cup Series Season Preview: Michael McDowell

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.

Age: 35

Years in Cup: 12

Career Wins: Zero in Cup (One Xfinity Series win)

One of the remaining guys that made their NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 2000s, Michael McDowell is fresh off his best Cup season.

Despite finishing 27th in points (one spot lower than 2017 and 2018) and getting into a confrontation with Daniel Suarez during spring qualifying at Phoenix, the 35-year-old veteran finally had his first multiple top-fives campaign with a pair of fifth-place runs in the Daytona 500 and fall Talladega race.

Additionally, the Front Row Motorsports driver’s qualifying average drastically improved to a from a 23.0 to a 20.9, highlighted with four top-10 starting positions, with a stunning fifth at the fall Martinsville race being his best-ever start in his decade-plus career.

McDowell’s average finish also saw improvement as he ended up with a 24.2, the second best of his career behind 22.2 in 2017.

Given the history of the driver/team combo, McDowell’s chances of winning are indeed hard to come by except the superspeedways and road courses, where he typically runs extraordinary well when luck is on his side.

With former teammate David Ragan retiring as well as other mid-pack drivers (ex. Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard) calling it a day the last few years, McDowell is now one of the senior drivers that represent a specific portion of the field.

Now entering his third year at FRM, McDowell will have another rookie teammate with John Hunter Nemechek getting the nod to run full-time after filling in for Matt Tifft during the final three Cup races of 2019.

Car owner Bob Jenkins, who will only run two cars instead of three this season, describes McDowell as a determined leader that’s eager to get his team back into victory lane for the first time since Ragan did it at Talladega in spring 2013.

“Michael is a veteran leader who is determined to win in the Cup Series,” Jenkins said. “He gives our organization the experience we need to continue to get better. Most importantly, both Michael and John Hunter also fit our team values and are tremendous assets to our partners on-and-off the track.”

McDowell will still have Drew Blickensderfer calling the shots for the third straight season, hoping their momentum continues to grow and eye its first-ever top-25 points finish.

“As an organization, we have made a lot of strides with the help of all our partners of our program,” McDowell on the team’s direction heading into 2020. “I’m ready to build on that momentum with Drew and the rest of our team. We’ve always had steady growth and I think we’re going to continue to see that next season.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.