2007 a cause for celebration for McDowell, ESR ARCA Rookie of the Year had a season to remember CORNELIUS, NC (December 8, 2007) - One year ago, Michael McDowell was prepping for an against- the-grain transition from sports car racing to stock...
2007 a cause for celebration for McDowell, ESR
ARCA Rookie of the Year had a season to remember
CORNELIUS, NC (December 8, 2007) - One year ago, Michael McDowell was prepping for an against- the-grain transition from sports car racing to stock car racing, climbing aboard the No. 2 Z-Line Designs / Make-A-Wish / Beck Dodge for Eddie Sharp Racing in anticipation of the 2007 ARCA RE/MAX Series season.
And what a terrific season it was.
While McDowell's year was one for the record books, it didn't get off to a blazing start. The Phoenix, Arizona native notched just two top-ten finishes in the first seven races; however, April's race at Salem Speedway kicked off what would be a trend for McDowell on the season. He captured his first career ARCA SIM Factory Pole Award en route to a third place finish. In the same seven-race stretch, he collected poles at Winchester and Kentucky.
The May 20th race from Toledo Speedway served as a turning point for McDowell-after scoring the pole, he dominated the event, leading 59 laps and threw down a late race rally that included passing ARCA legend Frank Kimmel and NASCAR winner Ken Schrader (through the infield grass). What looked like a sure-fire win ended when McDowell and ESR teammate Ken Butler III tangled in turn one. McDowell settled for seventh but the performance garnered national acclaim for the 22 year-old driver: multiple wins and a championship hunt were easily within his reach.
With a win in his crosshairs, McDowell ripped off finishes of 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 2nd in the next four races and picked up his fifth pole of the season at Berlin Raceway.
McDowell and ESR returned to Kentucky Speedway in July with intentions of winning at a track where a win eluded him earlier in the season. After qualifying 2nd, McDowell paced the field for 68 laps and the eventual win. His first victory in stock cars opened the flood gates for more checkered flags.
In the very next race, Jeremy Clements' feast was McDowell's famine. At Pocono Raceway, McDowell whizzed by Clements, who was running out of gas, on the last lap to score win number two. With a second triumph in his back pocket, McDowell started to set his sights on the ARCA championship and reigning ARCA titlist Frank Kimmel.
In the next five races, McDowell scored three top-five finishes, including a runner-up finish at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, the first dirt track event of his young career, and also collected two more poles at Nashville and Milwaukee.
In August, McDowell tamed Chicagoland Speedway, winning the 200-mile event after claiming another pole and leading a race-high 98 laps. His championship aspirations grew stronger, climbing to second in series points behind Kimmel.
While McDowell fought to stay in the championship fight, Kimmel was flawless in the stretch run of races, picking up wins at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the Milwaukee Mile. In the final three events, Kimmel fought off advances from McDowell and ESR. The championship may have been decided but one final run to the history books was in the works for McDowell and Co.
A third place finish at Salem Speedway and a DNF at Talladega preceded an exciting season finale at Toledo. McDowell not only claimed his ninth pole of 2007, but out-dueled James Buescher in the race's final ten laps to claim his fourth win of the season.
McDowell finished second in the season's point standings and was named the ARCA RE/MAX Series' Rookie of the Year. In addition, he brought home the Stewart Warner Lap Leader Award (most laps led in the series) and five Holley Halfway Leader Awards.
"This was an exciting year, for which I am grateful," said McDowell. "I couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere this year. Eddie Sharp and the entire ESR organization were unbelievable. Working with Patrick Donahue helped me better adjust to stock cars and the whole team made this feel like home. I had a great group of sponsors in Z-Line Designs, Make-A-Wish, Mission Residential, Lotame, Beck, and Dodge that allowed for all of the success that came with this season. I'll miss working with everyone here but I'll cherish the memories we created. It was one of the best years of my life and the most exciting year of my racing career.
"But without the support of Rob Finlay none of this would have been possible. From the beginning of our relationship, Rob has supported me on all levels and has given me an opportunity that otherwise would of not been possible."