“There is just so much to look back on,” said McDowell when asked about his historic season in the NASCAR Cup Series. "We have so much to be proud of this season and a lot more to look forward to.” For the Glendale, Ariz. native, success didn't come easy.
"Going into the season with a new crew chief, new car chief, new mechanics, basically a whole new team, there was a lot of work to do. But Travis (Peterson) and I quickly formed a bond and it just felt like we were going to do great things this season."
McDowell and the No. 34 Ford Mustang team showed promise early in the season starting in February with McDowell's Daytona Duel. The 2021 Daytona 500 champion finished fifth in his Duel. The 500 didn't go as planned as McDowell was caught in an accident on lap 183 resulting in a 28th-place finish.
The west coast swing started to show the promise of the season ahead with an 18th-place finish at the Auto Club Speedway before a 25th-place finish at the Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway. The west coast trip ended on a high note for McDowell and the team with a top-15 finish at the Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway.
Back on the east coast, McDowell and the No. 34 team settled into the season throughout the months of March and April. The team finished 21st at the Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway before bringing home an impressive 12th-place finish at the Circuit of The Americas. McDowell carried the momentum from COTA to the Richmond (Va.) Raceway with a sixth-place result- his first top-10 of the season.
The team continued to show their strength at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway Dirt Race with an 11th-place finish after keeping his Ford Mustang from hitting the wall after not one, but two 360-degree spins. It was a highlight used by NASCAR and FOX Sports for months.
“I could feel the momentum gather and things start to click for this 34 team,” said McDowell. “The energy around the shop was good and our cars had speed.”
The summer picked up for the team with a ninth-place finish at the World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) and seventh-place finish at the Sonoma Raceway. McDowell scored another seventh at the inaugural Chicago Street Course and a fourth-place finish at the Atlanta Motor Speedway after a gutsy call from Peterson at the end.
The highlight of the season came when McDowell and the 34 team landed in Indianapolis, Indiana for an event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. The team qualified fourth and wasted no time taking the lead from pole sitter Daniel Suárez. Leading 54 of the 82 laps at the historic track, McDowell earned his second career NASCAR Cup Series win.
“We went into Indianapolis knowing we had the car and driver that could get it done and we knew we had a shot at it after practice and qualifying," said Peterson. "Michael and the crew were flawless. It was really a flawless race and that’s days that you dream of.”
"That win meant so much to me because my family was there," stated McDowell.
The team then focused on their return the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the second time in three seasons and attempting to advance past Round 1.
Throughout the first round, McDowell qualified in the top-10 for each race. The team had speed, but terrible luck again at the Darlington (S.C.) Raceway resulted in an accident. The team then finished 26th in Kansas and went to Bristol needing a win. Finishing sixth in Bristol, McDowell missed the next round of the playoffs.
However, the team still had history to make.
Front Row Motorsports had never finished better than 16th in the championship and McDowell had torrid points battle with Ricky Stenhouse Jr in the final seven races for 15th. It came down to the season finale where the team beat Stenhouse, collected another top-10 and finished 15th in the championship.”
“I’m having fun right now driving the 34 Ford Mustang,” said McDowell. “We are working hard, doing a lot of good things, and getting better each season. I’m looking forward to the break, but also to 2024 and what we can accomplish together. I want to thank the team, all our partners and all the fans behind us.”