McDowell Returns to his ...
McDowell Returns to his #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota at Richmond International Raceway
RICHMOND, Va. (September 3, 2008) -- Michael McDowell returns to his #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota Camry at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) after stepping out for three consecutive races for Mike Skinner to evaluate the Michael Waltrip Racing organization.
"I learned a lot of positives from Mike Skinner," McDowell said. "Mike gave me confidence that my feel for the car is correct, so now I need to utilize my practice better. It is important for me to chase a feel and not the board. Mike does that really well it doesn't matter if he is running 40th, 25th or 20th. He's still chasing what ultimately he thinks is going to race well."
"As a young guy and a rookie, you are always trying to prove yourself and how you do that is being up on the board," McDowell continued. "Sometimes I found myself just trying to put up a solid lap rather than what I needed to run 400 to 500 miles. It's a balance. You compare yourself to your teammates and you compare yourself to the rookies and the other guys at your level and you are trying to be the best of that group."
McDowell has a new outlook reentering the .75-mile D-shaped oval thanks in part to Skinner.
"Skinner is a driver that has won a lot of races and he has so many NASCAR starts and the car seems to be about the same with him driving it," McDowell said. "I don't mean that in a negative way. I really mean that in a positive way because that gives me confidence going back into the car at Richmond. Now, I know more of what I need to be doing to be more efficient in practice to get more out of the car in qualifying. Then in the race we will make better decisions as a team."
The 23-year-old will apply the knowledge he gained from observing practices and races from the spotter's stand and listening to his team's communication while absent from the #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota.
"Skinner knew what he needed in a race car to get the guys through practice," McDowell said. "I've learned a lot from watching and listening. I need to let Peter Sospenzo (crew chief) do his job and make his calls, but I also have to lead him to that point. Having that balance of trust, knowing that Peter is going to make the right decision, if I give him the right information will make us better. I wasn't stressing enough on how big of a change we needed to make. If I know we are not close, I need to say 'we need to make some big swings at this.' It's going to come in time."
McDowell also has learned a valuable lesson from watching other drivers.
"I got a valuable lesson from watching Juan Pablo Montoya at Bristol," McDowell said. "I know everyone was upset with how hard he raced the leaders. He raced everybody as hard as he could every single lap. He ended up getting a top-20 finish and he probably had a 35th-place car. I think that's something that you've got to look at. There is a balance and you probably are going to upset some people, but at the same time you are trying to get into the top-35. You are trying to keep your job and improve your finishes."
According to McDowell, the #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota Camry team has grown from the experience.
"The team's learned how to be even more efficient in practice," McDowell said. "They've been working really hard on pit stops and adjustments. All of that comes with time and also with communication. It's tough because I only was able to work with Peter for three weekends. We haven't had time to form a solid bond. The break from these three races has slowed it down a little, but hopefully long term everything will work out fine."
Returning to RIR for a second time, McDowell expects better results.
"We had a pretty good car at Richmond and there were times where we ran well," said McDowell, who was caught up in an accident and finished 40th. "I just need to find that feel and shut the timing and scoring monitor off. I need to get what I need out of the race car. I'm really looking forward to being back with my guys."