Michael McDowell aims for cautious navigation of playoffs, vows to evade 2021’s desperation

Michael McDowell was knocked out of the playoffs in 2021 at Bristol.

Michael McDowell aims for cautious navigation of playoffs, vows to evade 2021’s desperation

Michael McDowell (Credits: IMAGO)

Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford Mustang driver Michael McDowell is preparing for the 2023 Cup playoffs, determined to avoid the desperation that plagued his previous playoff appearance in 2021. He claims to have learned from his mistakes and has a clear strategy for this year’s playoffs.

In 2021, Michael McDowell’s remarkable Daytona 500 victory ended one of NASCAR’s lengthiest winless droughts. His first Cup Series win in his 358th start, second only to Michael Waltrip‘s 463 starts, was a historic moment.

McDowell started the season strong, with top-ten finishes in the first three races. However, feeling the need to take high-risk strategies due to perceived speed deficiencies, he crashed out of the playoff opener at Darlington after just 30 laps. This setback led to his early elimination from championship contention.

Reflecting on that tumultuous year, McDowell admitted to Motorsport.com, stating, “I felt like I had to hit a home run.” He recognized the valuable lesson learned from 2021 – the importance of consistency over desperation. He acknowledged that the crash wrecked his playoff journey but admitted that he learned from his mistakes. 

This year, McDowell is entering the playoffs with a more measured mindset, emphasizing the need to execute without making mistakes. “The approach going in is don’t beat ourselves, execute and no mistakes,” he stressed. “If we have a 12th-place care, we take that and move on and not have that desperation. That desperation got me in trouble last time,” he added.

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McDowell admits that his team’s experience and greater speed will benefit them in the playoffs

Michael McDowell at the Indy Course, his second win in 2023
Michael McDowell at the Indy Course, his second win in 2023 (Credits: Autosport)

In the 2023 season, McDowell has already demonstrated significant improvement. Despite a challenging start with a 28th-place finish at the 2023 Daytona 500, he made a statement by dominating the Indianapolis road race, securing his spot in the playoffs, and earning his second career win. McDowell enters the playoffs in 13th place, bolstered by his win and two top-five finishes.

His team’s increased speed and enhanced performance this season have given McDowell confidence. With six top-ten finishes, more laps led, and a career-best average finish of 18.5, McDowell believes his team’s experience and improved speed will be instrumental in navigating the playoffs successfully.

As McDowell prepares for the 2023 playoffs, he acknowledges the pressure and anticipation of competing at this level. Speaking about this, he said, “The big difference this year is we come in with more experience and more speed and more potential out of our race cars and our team.” He admits that having will help them from “not having to have a miracle run to do well.”

However, he understands that having speed is paramount. He pointed out that teams with great speed can run at 97 percent and avoid trouble, contrasting with those pushing at 110 percent and risking high-stress situations. In summary, McDowell is approaching the 2023 NASCAR Cup playoffs with a focus on consistency, avoiding desperation, and relying on the increased speed and experience of his team to perform well in the postseason.

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