Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Daytona Media Day–Michael McDowell

FEBRUARY 22, 2017

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, NO. 95 K-LOVE RADIO CHEVROLET SS, met with media at the annual Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. Full transcript:

IS THE SEGMENT FORMAT THE GREAT EQUALIZER FOR YOU BEING A SMALLER TEAM? “Yes, I definitely think so. For whatever reason for the last three or four years, we have put together a string of good finishes. That obviously builds confidence. Just really putting yourself in position to be there at the end. There has been a lot of crazy circumstances – you know –rainouts; shortened races – but the biggest thing I have learned over the years for me with our program, if I can wedge myself in that top-15 early on, and just stay there and fight hard all day long, at the end, it usually shakes out where we are sitting in the top-10. That’s going to eventually put us in a position to be in the top-five and put us in the position to win the race. We don’t always have that outright speed like you see in No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the No. 22 (Joey Logano) pull the lines and do all of those things. But we are close enough to see it going on, and eventually you do that often enough, and you are going to be in a good spot. I think that is what our goal is – to race well. To be up in that top-10 and put ourselves in position to seek a win.”

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO MOVE FORWARD? “The reason it is now is because the guys up front are so good, and are using the draft and not allowing runs to come. In the past, you would see the top line come in and it would move up four or five rows. Then the bottom line would come chugging back, and it would move back four or five rows. Now you have the leader controlling both rows, so it stalls everything out. There is not a lot of opportunity to get big runs and go anywhere like you used to. If you are brave enough, and you can make it work. You can put it in the middle there and try to make something happen. I think it’s just that everybody is so good at what they are going, and this package here in particular has pretty much stayed the same throughout the last few years with some minor changes. But, just like anything else, we start to perfect things and that makes the racing harder.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE OVERALL STRENGTH OF YOUR PROGRAM IS IMPROVING? “Absolutely, It is kind of hard to really know where we are going to be this year, based off of where we finished last year. It would be great to start off right where we were. But, definitely this is not the only race we look forward to .Our program is really solid, and we’ve added to it in the off season. You don’t know. You just don’t know until you get racing until you actually get to Atlanta and see where your mile-and-a-half speed is at. Obviously that is a big part of the schedule. We’ve done everything we can do in the off season. And you just cross your fingers that when you get to Atlanta, that you have some speed.”

THOUGHTS ON CONTINUING CUP CAREER AFTER SUCCESSFUL ARCA CAREER: “It’s crazy. I think that, like you said, when I ran the ARCA series and got the job with MWR, I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder and thought I was going to win races in the Cup series and have shots at championships because that is all I have ever done. It has been a humbling seven years. I’ve been in and out of rides and had to start and park a lot of them in my career. The last two years have really been a revitalization of my career and doing it with LFR and having those runs in Xfinity helped that as well. With JGR, with Penske and obviously the win last year with RCR. Just staying alive in the sport. When I look back, and I look at the guys that started in 2008 with me, which was Regan Smith and Dario Franchitti and Jacque Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, and there is just a list of guys. (Juan Pablo) Montoya was in there. You look at the caliber of drivers that came in the sport when I did, to still be here now out of all those guys – Sam Hornish included. To me is something that I am really thankful for because those are great drivers. I think that is probably the biggest thing for me. I haven’t had much success. It is no different than my first year for me. I look at it, this is the year. This is the opportunity I have to finally run how I think we can run. You just have that mindset going into the year.”

DO YOU HAVE A RIDE SO YOU CAN GO BACK TO ROAD AMERICA AND DEFEND YOUR TITLE? “I hope so. Not as of right now. There’s so many moving parts to it. Because obviously those Xfinity teams, RCR in particular, they are trying to fill a six or seven race gap that I can’t do. It is hard for teams to have four or five drivers in one car. We’ll see how it all shakes out when it gets closer to it. If not, there will be a time when I get to go back. If this is not the year, then we will just look forward to having good runs on the road courses in the Cup car. I think we can do the same thing.”

WHY DO THEY REFER TO TRACKS HAVING FOUR TURNS WHEN THERE IS REALLY ONLY TWO TURNS? “That has always perplexed me too. With my road racing back ground, turn one is one turn, and turn two is one turn. I have always wondered the same thing. When I first came to NASCAR, I would draw track maps to show what the car is doing and I would call it turn one and turn two all the way at the other end. Everyone is like there are four turns, and I was like where? There are not four turns. If you want to call the front straightaway – the tri-oval – that may be a turn, but I’ve always wondered the same thing. Let me know when you find out.”

TALK ABOUT THE FORMAT CHANGES – WILL IT IMPACT HOW YOU RACE? “It will for sure impact how we race, especially at places we know we are running 25th. If we have an opportunity; if a caution falls right; a strategy falls right, you can stay out and maybe get some points and get a little bit of a sport light for your partners, I think you absolutely do it. We are going to see how it all plays out. There will be top teams that do it as well. There might be a team that just didn’t hit it that weekend and are running 15th and they have enough speed to stay out, and salvage the weekend. The real concern for me is, what does it cost you. If you stay out in a segment, or you strategize a segment, what does it cost you in the final result, and does it out weigh the points you get at the finish. I think it adds a new element of excitement. Definitely for a team like ours at LFR, we are going to try and maximize those opportunities as much as possible. But not at the cost of a good run. So, you just have to play out those weekends. There are going to be so many moving factors with it. It’s not just can you go for it? Do you have enough fuel to do it. When do the cautions fall. And, if you get an early one. There is just so much to it, I can process all of it. But, luckily I have Todd Parrott and some good engineers. They will figure out a way to make it work. We’ll just see how it goes.

ON CHANGES TO TEAM: “The team has changed quite a bit in the off season. Our foundation, our core group is still the same. Obviously the addition of Todd Parrott was a huge part of our success. We lost one of our engineers to JR Motorsports, so we are really happy for him, but at the same time, we’re hoping to keep Kevin Walter around. But, at the same time, we have some really solid guys. We have John Stewart from RCR. We have really strengthened our shop. We brought in some great fabricators. Guys with a lot of experience to really help our aero department. We have really made some big strides. We have Peter Sospenzo who has a lot of history in this sport and wins. He is our shop manager, shop foreman. We have good core racers. We still aren’t big. We don’t have an excessive amount of people, but we have a lot of racers. They did a great job in the off season, and I feel like our preparation is better than it has ever been. Speed? You just don’t know until you get to Atlanta and you see where you are at. I think everyone kind of feels that way. You do the best you can during the off season to produce the best race cars you can. But until you unload at Atlanta, you don’t really know where you are at.”

TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE TODD PARROTT HAS MADE. “What I’ve seen with Todd coming on is not just the performance, but leadership as well. He is a great leader. He is a great motivator. He knows enough about the race cars, he could probably do it all himself. You can’t in the day and age. But he knows what the body should be like. He knows what the chassis needs to be. He knows where the tires need to be. He can lead all of those departments really well, because he has done it. Because he understands it. I think that is probably the biggest thing he has is great leadership. That comes from experience; winning races and winning championships. Obviously that gives him a lot of confidence. The biggest thing I tool away from last year is he believes I can do it, and I believe he can do it. That was a great formula. I really feel like you can’t fabricate chemistry. You can’t fabricate confidence. You can’t pump yourself up enough to believe in somebody. You believe in somebody because of their performance and their actions. I really feel like together we really built a good foundation last year that will continue this year.”

ARE THERE TRACKS THAT YOU EXPECT TO DO WELL THIS YEAR? “I feel like after the end of last year, we have a lot of confidence going anywhere now. We ran 10th at Homestead. We had some top-15s at mile-and-a-half tracks as well. A top-10 at Richmond. Things like that give you confidence. We really look forward to the plate races and the road courses. But now I feel like we can go to a short track and be competitive and go to a mile-and-a-half and be competitive. Until the season gets rolling, I don’t know exactly where our strengths will be in this program. I know we run well at the speedway races, and we will run good at the road courses. I would love for our attribute to be mile-and-a-half tracks, but we’ll see.”