By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell had a stellar third-place result in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Although the day was owned by the big three teams of Penske, Gibbs and Hendrick, McDowell held his own tremendously. As seen with his stage finishes of eighth and third, the Front Row Motorsports veteran had a fast machine.
When the race came down to overtime, McDowell had a shot of getting another victory this year. Like at Daytona, he had to deal with a couple Ford drivers like Brad Keselowski. Coming to the backstretch for the final time, he was running behind the fellow Ford racer. Behind McDowell was Kevin Harvick, who went to the top in Turn 3.
In that moment, McDowell backed off a bit to get one last help by William Byron. When he got the needed assistance, he tried making his move in the final corner. However, Byron also tried stealing first from BK with neither being able to stop the now six-time Talladega winner.
Instead, McDowell had to settle for his second top-five of the season, equaling his personal mark set back in 2019.
“I was pretty close to timing it. I just didn’t drag Brad back enough when I got to his right rear,” said McDowell during the post-race video call. “He kind of pulled down, which is good. I was watching the 24 a little bit too much and needed to drag Brad back a little bit more.
“We definitely had a shot at it. Really fast Ford Mustang today. Glad a Ford Mustang got into Victory Lane there. Ended a little bit different than the Daytona 500.”
Spirits weren’t dampened as McDowell praised Keselowski on being able to draft well over the years. This time around, it was Keselowski’s moment in the sun.
“Brad and I have always worked well together seems like at the end of these races where we’re usually around each other,” said McDowell. “Able to execute really well on the restart, get a Ford Mustang into Victory Lane.”
Regarding backing off from Keselowski in Turn 3, McDowell dragged back to Byron so he can execute the winning attempt. He succeeded, but from his vantage point, he just couldn’t drag Keselowski enough.
“Brad did a good job of pulling to the left, kind of getting me off of his right rear. It was close,” said McDowell. “If (Byron) would have stayed up with us, we would have definitely had the momentum. We would have got Brad.
“But I understand, too, he was trying to win the race. You’re trying to look out the front and the back at the same time and make a good decision.”
After 10 races, McDowell sits 17th in the standings with four top-10s to his name. Already equaling his total from last year with a lot of racing yet to go. No question, Sunday’s performance certainly boosted his and the No. 34 team’s confidence on their superspeedway program.
“We’ve had speed here (at Talladega), but we’ve struggled to get to the finish of these races,” McDowell stated. “It’s nice to get one. I think it’s been a year or two since we’ve had a top five here at Talladega. It’s nice to kick off the superspeedway at Daytona, then here, with solid finishes.
“We have two more. Yeah, we think that we’re in a good spot for these races and feel like we can contend,” McDowell continued. “You just never know. You just never know in these races. You have to take ’em when you can get ’em because you’re not always going to get ’em. It’s always great to have that opportunity.”