MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
PRE-SEASON MEDIA AVAILABILITY
CHARLOTTE MEDIA TOUR
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JANUARY 24, 2017
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, NO 95 K-LOVE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Charlotte Media tour and discussed the race format change, racing full time this year, his team goals, and more. Full transcript:
HOW HAS YOUR DAY BEEN SO FAR?
“My day has been great. I’m just enjoying it. It’s nice to be back here. Every time I get to this time of year, some people dread Media Day because there’s a lot happening, but I think about it as I’ve got one more year and another shot at it. And, I’m thankful for the opportunity to run full time this year.”
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON YESTERDAY’S BIG ANNOUNCEMENT ON THE REFORMATTING OF HOW RACES ARE GOING TO BE RUN?
“I think it’s definitely going to be a unique and fun thing for us to dive into. As a small team, it gives us an opportunity to be pretty aggressive strategy-wise, and maybe steal a segment win in there. It’s going to be new for all of us. We’re going to have to see how everything plays out, but I feel like, for us as a team that’s looking to get exposure and looking to gain value for our partners, this is a great way to do it.”
LAST YEAR CHRIS BUESCHER GOT A WIN THROUGH KIND OF THE MAGIC ACT OF POCONO. DO THINGS LIKE THAT, AS A MEMBER OF A SMALLER TEAM, GIVE YOU SOME HOPE THAT HEY, IF THAT COULD HAPPEN TO THEM, THEN IT COULD HAPPEN FOR US?
“Yeah, for sure. Seeing Chris and seeing what their team did last year made you wish you were a bit more aggressive, you know? How that played out was perfect. It was a win one for the small guys. It was fun for them to be able to do that. But, it’s not just about getting into the Chase, it’s about being competitive all year long and when you get into the Chase, being able to do something with it.”
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR CUP CAREER, YOU ACTUALLY HAVE EXPECTATIONS GOING INTO A SEASON TO RUN WELL. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE TO HAVE EXPECTATIONS TO ACTUALLY PERFORM WELL IN THE CUP SERIES?
“You’re right on. For us, how we finished last year running in the top 20 and finishing with a top-10, we have high hopes going into 2017. We’ve done a really great job in the off-season, infrastructure-wise, and just really getting prepared for this year. We hope to pick up right where we left off, and to do that consistently now that we’re running full time. To run in those low 20’s and be in the ‘teens gives you an opportunity to steal a good result and hopefully we’ll be able to do that every weekend.”
GIVEN YOUR PROWESS ON ROAD COURSES AND WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO DO LAST YEAR, WERE YOU MONITORING THE SITUATION AT CHARLOTTE AND HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT A CUP RACE OR AN XFINITY RACE ON THE ROAD COURSE THERE?
“I say we add as many road course races as we can and do as many as we can. Daytona’s got a roval, Texas has a roval, New Hampshire has even got a road course. Obviously I’m bias. I’d love to see more road racing happen. It’s great racing. It puts on a great show. You see in the Xfinity Series, Road American and Mid-Ohio great races; Watkins Glen and Sonoma in the Cup series. So, I feel like the racing is really great. Charlotte, I’m not sure how legitimate that is. I know the test was. It’s a tight, twisty, roval. It would be a challenge. Daytona obviously, is much more suited for something like that. And there are some other places. But, I’d love to see it.”
YOU’VE BEEN RACING SINCE 2008. WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO RUN IN EVERY SINGLE CUP RACE FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“It’s kind of a unique feeling. I’ve been doing this since 2008. I’ve run a lot of races, but not at a high level. Not at the level that I wanted to be at. So this is the first year where I feel like I’m in competitive equipment with the right people, the right parts, the right partners, to go out there and really show what we can do and do it full time. Last year, I think I did 30 races and Ty Dillon did the other six. It was pretty close to full time, so it wasn’t a huge jump. But, to know that now you have a shot if you do win a race, to be in the Chase and to do all those things that small teams strive to do, is definitely a challenge we look forward to.”
IS THERE ANY TRACK THAT YOU’VE MISSED OUT ON OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO RACE ON FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“No, I don’t think there are any that I’ve missed out on. There are a few that it’s been a while, actually. And so, that’ll be kind of fun to go back to those places. But I did that a little bit last year. The races that I didn’t do were Pocono, Dover, Kentucky; I haven’t been in a Cup car at Kentucky in quite a few years. The new asphalt and repave will be kind of new for me. So, there are not really too many tracks that I haven’t raced at. But to be in that rhythm and that sequence is a big part of it too; just going every weekend and building on your results from the last weekend and just getting into that rhythm.”
WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL OF EXPECTATION? WHAT DO YOU SEE AT THE START OF THIS SEASON THAT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY WHEN YOU GET TO THE END?
“At the beginning of the year we always set goals. One thing I’ve learned in this sport is if you don’t set realistic goals, you make yourself miserable because you always feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. So, for us, when we run in the top-20, we celebrate that. We feel good about what we’ve done when we run in the top-20. I know that might seem kind of crazy because we’re all chasing wins, but for a small team and what we have, that’s a big deal. Now, we’ve sort of progressed from that stage where it’s not just those top-20’s we want, we want to be able to be legitimate contenders at several race tracks. Obviously road courses and speedways are a big part of that; but, to run consistently up front and to sort of be the best of the rest. There’s not that many independent single-car teams out there anymore. And we feel like we’re excelling at a fast rate.”
IN THE MIDST OF THE 2016 CHAMPIONSHIP AT HOMESTEAD, IT WAS SORT OF OVERLOOKED THAT YOU GUYS HAD A TOP-10 FINISH AND IT WAS YOUR FIRST TOP-10 FINISH IN CUP ON A NON-RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACK. HOW BIG WAS THAT FOR YOU AND THE TEAM? DID YOU LEARN SOMETHING THERE THAT YOU CAN APPLY TO 2017?
“For sure. It was a big run for us to run top-10 at Homestead. It wasn’t like we fell into it or there was a big wreck where we kind of fell into it. We legitimately raced up there all day. For us, what it did, was it gave us a lot of confidence and hope going into the off-season to put our heads down and continue to work hard. What we learned was that details matter. Todd Parrott (crew chief) brought a tremendous amount of experience to our organization. And in the off-season we’ve made big changes personnel-wise; and we’ve added to the existing foundation that’s already at LFR (Leavine Family Racing) and we feel like we’ve really put ourselves in a great position.”
TODD PARROTT IS RETURNING AS CREW CHIEF THIS SEASON, WHICH WAS A CHANGE THE TEAM MADE LATE LAST SEASON. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BUILDING ON THE PROGRESS YOU MADE AS A DUO TOGETHER THIS SEASON?
“It’s been great to work with Todd. It’s pretty. Sometimes you have that transition period where you’re trying to get to know a guy and trying to learn how to communicate. Todd and I really didn’t have that. We kind of jumped in and we both had something to prove and we wanted to do it. When you have success, that helps it, when you start off on a good foot. He and I have been working really closely together. He believes in me and I believe in him. I think that’s probably the biggest chemistry factor that matters is when you have a crew chief that believes that he has the driver that can do the job and vice-versa. That’s where the chemistry starts.”
WHERE IS YOUR ROAD AMERICA TROPHY CURRENTLY RESIDING?
“I don’t want to tell you. It’s on the floor in my guest room because my wife made me take it down to put up Christmas decorations. She was tired of it being in the main walkway (laughter). Honestly, I’m going to that Phoenix next week and I’m probably going to bring it home to Phoenix. I don’t live there anymore, but it’s where I’m from, and let my dad store it for a little while. Trophies, to me, have never been significant. It’d rather have just the memory of being in Victory Lane and the pictures of the people you’re in Victory Lane with. The only trophy I have is that Road America trophy from my career. I’ve pretty much given away all of them and I’m planning on giving away that one as well.”