McDowell gunning for Rookie of the Year

McDowell gunning for Rookie of the Year

Michael McDowell is on the fast track to success in stock car racing, having been named Michael Waltrip Racing's newest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. The 2007 ARCA runner-up will race the No. 00 Toyota Camry for the majority of the season, ...

Michael McDowell is on the fast track to success in stock car racing, having been named Michael Waltrip Racing's newest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. The 2007 ARCA runner-up will race the No. 00 Toyota Camry for the majority of the season, revealed Wednesday night by the team.

Michael McDowell and Dale Jarrett.
Photo by David Graham - Fastlines.

McDowell moves to the cockpit of the No. 00 car, which teammate David Reutimann will drive in the first five Cup Series races of the year. At that time, Reutimann will then shift to the No. 44 Toyota, replacing Dale Jarrett. McDowell's first race will come on March 30 at Martinsville Raceway.

The 23-year-old road racing star transitions to the premier stock car series after a very successful one-year stint in the ARCA Series for Eddie Sharp Racing. McDowell claimed four wins, including nine poles and the series' Rookie of the Year title. Now it's a shot at the big times, in a very large way.

"It's awesome," McDowell said Thursday morning at Daytona International Speedway. "Last night at Michael Waltrip Racing, we made the announcement. I'm going to get to do 30 Sprint Cup races with Toyota and Michael Waltrip in the No. 00. Its exciting times and a really cool deal."

The former Star Mazda series Champion is competing in this weekend's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for Spirit of Daytona Racing. McDowell, along with co-drivers Guy Cosmo, Marc-Antoine Camirand and Leonard d'Aston will pilot the team's No. 09 Porsche Fabcar Daytona Prototype in the twice-around-the-clock road racing classic.

"We had some teething problems," McDowell said of his Daytona Prototype machine. "The Spirit of Daytona guys worked hard. We got this car ready and had to make a lot of changes after the test. We're just working through our systems right now and trying to gear up for qualifying. We're not too worried - just get everything sorted and we'll move forward."

McDowell credits Rob Finlay for much of his past success. He took his first Rolex Series win behind the wheel of a Finlay Motorsports DP, spending two seasons in the series (2005-'06). With the help of Finlay, McDowell was able to fulfill his stock car dreams the following year.

"Rob (Finlay) has been with me each step of the way and has supported me," McDowell said. "He stood up for me and said, 'Hey, this guy can do it.' That led to me competing for the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship with Eddie Sharp Racing. Through knowledge of the business and his financial support over the years, he has helped propel me to the pinnacle of our sport."

Michael McDowell.
Photo by David Graham - Fastlines.

Team owner Michael Waltrip said at first he was apprehensive at first to give McDowell the seat, mainly due to the high level of competition. But a recent test changed his mind.

"After testing with Michael, I learned firsthand that he is intense, knowledgeable of racing and more importantly he was fast at all of our test sessions," Waltrip said. RThose factors set my mind at ease. I feel like he will do a great job and it is our job to prepare the best cars we can for him and provide the best opportunity to hone his driving talents."

After winning Rookie of the Year honors in ARCA last year, McDowell will now set his eyes on the Cup series award. He'll face stiff competition from some renowned open-wheel veterans.

"When you think about the class of rookies that I'm going up against: Jacques Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier, Regan Smith... Just to be part of that name selection is amazing," he said. "I feel good because I have a year of stock car racing under my belt. I hope we can contend for Rookie of the Year and see what we have."

Before debuting in the Cup Series, McDowell will also race in February's Nationwide Series race at Daytona, to gain more experience on superspeedways.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Jacques Villeneuve , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Marc-Antoine Camirand , Michael McDowell , Regan Smith , Rob Finlay
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing