BUSCH: Phoenix II: Michael McDowell race report

McDowell finishes 14th in Phoenix homecoming Late race charge solidifies top-15 finish in second career race AVONDALE, AZ (November 12, 2007) - One week after making his NASCAR Busch Series debut, Michael McDowell returned to his native Phoenix,...

McDowell finishes 14th in Phoenix homecoming
Late race charge solidifies top-15 finish in second career race

AVONDALE, AZ (November 12, 2007) - One week after making his NASCAR Busch Series debut, Michael McDowell returned to his native Phoenix, Arizona for an encore showing.

McDowell has won before at Phoenix International Raceway-in a 2004 Star Mazda Series race-but had yet to run a stock car at the mile-oval in the Arizona desert. In front of friends and family, the 22 year-old put on a show to be remembered.

After pacing the rookie practice session on Friday, McDowell arrived to the track early on Saturday morning and logged a lap of 27.783 seconds, which would put him in 27th starting spot for the afternoon's race. Despite the disappointing qualifying run, McDowell was optimistic about his chances of navigating the No. 00 Aaron's / Best Western Toyota through the 43-car field.

In the race's first few green flag runs, McDowell fought a loose condition. A caution on lap 43 gave the Michael Waltrip Racing team a chance to correct the situation as McDowell pitted for four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment.

As McDowell wrestled the car's new off-balance feel to the 24th position, he radioed to crew chief Butch Hylton that one of his tires was going down (this was later diagnosed as a loose wheel). Close to a round of green flag pit stops, Hylton suggested that the team pit early-a decision that would have paid off, if not for the caution flag that flew immediately as McDowell entered his pit box. Instead of changing tires and going down two laps, the crew called an audible on the planned emergency stop, instead deciding to skip the tire change. He rejoined the field on the track, only losing one lap. His eventual stop would include four new tires, fuel, and a second air pressure adjustment.

A caution on lap 137 would allow McDowell to get his lap back via the Aaron's Lucky Dog Free Pass and also gave the team more time to tinker on his car, setting the Aaron's / Best Western Toyota up for a solid final run.

McDowell made the call to stay out on lap 171 after storming from 24th to 17th. His gamble didn't pan out as several cars behind him with fresher tires swooped by for position. Luckily, another caution on lap 181 awarded the No. 00 team an opportunity to rectify the mistake: four new tires proved to be all the difference as McDowell zoomed from 21st to 14th for the finish.

Afterwards, McDowell relished the learning experience that came with Saturday afternoon's 200-mile race and was pleased with the team's effort:

"That last run there was exciting," said McDowell. "We made a bad call by staying out but the opportunity arose for us to make up for it. The car was good and the finish was exactly what we needed. It was important for us to finish on the lead lap and mix things up a little with some of the heavy hitters in the series and we did that. Now, we can go to Homestead and improve some more on our performance."

Top of the Charts: In both of his NASCAR Busch Series starts, McDowell has paced the weekend's Rookie Practice Session. At Phoenix, his mock qualifying run of 27.640 was over a half-tenth of a second faster than the second-quickest car.

Runner-Up Among Non-Winners: McDowell finished behind A.J. Allmendinger (13th place), making him the second highest finisher among non- Busch Series race winners.

-credit: www.mmcdowell.com.

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Michael McDowell , A.J. Allmendinger
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing