Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Stage 1 Crash Forces McDowell’s Exit in the Southern 500

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Sunday’s opening stage of the Cook Out Southern 500 had chaotic moments involving NASCAR playoff drivers. One negatively impacted by the madness was Michael McDowell, the first to have a mulligan in the Round of 16.

Entering the backstretch on Lap 31, McDowell went from gaining track position to losing everything in front of the competition. Consequently, his No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang slammed the Turn 2 wall.

It was already game over for the Daytona 500 champion as he’ll leave Darlington Raceway with a 37th place finish. Thus, heading to Richmond Raceway next Saturday in angst as his bid of making the next round became problematic.

McDowell wasn’t sure what happened to his Mustang, but noted Erik Jones played a minor role to his downturn.

“The 43 kind of got everybody jammed up,” said the playoff debutant. “I think he started on the front there without tires, which is a tough spot to be in and I just went three-wide underneath him and just got into the patch with my left sides just a little bit low. 

“I got loose enough into the wall and that was about it. I’ll have to see the replay, but just heartbreaking for everybody on this Front Row team. We had high hopes coming into the playoffs and this is not how we wanted to start it.”

Sunday’s DNF marked McDowell’s fourth with three coming in the last four races. Barring any post-race disqualifications, it’ll extended his record of most last-place finishes in Cup which now sits at 35.

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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 and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. 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 with ambitions of having his work recognized.