Michael McDowell Scores Career-Best Fifth Place at Talladega Young Star Secures First Top-Five Finish in First Restrictor Plate Race DENVER, NC (October 9, 2006) -- It has been a long time since a driver has hit the scene in the ARCA RE/MAX...
Michael McDowell Scores Career-Best Fifth Place at Talladega
Young Star Secures First Top-Five Finish in First Restrictor Plate Race
DENVER, NC (October 9, 2006) -- It has been a long time since a driver has hit the scene in the ARCA RE/MAX Series the way that young Michael McDowell has in his starts thus far during the 2006 season. McDowell made his fourth start of the season at the high-banked, super-fast 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, fresh off his career-best finish of sixth at Salem Speedway in September. The 21-year-old had the potential for top-10 runs in each of his four starts, but none of the tracks that he had been to posed quite the challenge to him as Talladega Superspeedway.
Talladega is a track that is synonymous with speed. Many years ago, before the age of restrictor plates, cars were running there well into the 220-mph range. These days, the ARCA machines have the restrictor plates to keep the speed down, but McDowell did everything he could to keep his speed up on Friday afternoon. McDowell raced inside the top-10 again in the Food World 250 at Talladega and used the help of some well-known friends in the racing world to get all the way up to the fifth spot at the fall of the checkered flag, a new career-best for the young hotshoe.
"It was a pretty exciting weekend," said McDowell. "We tested at Talladega a few weeks ago, but the guys did a great job from where we tested at, because there was no way that we would have qualified if we ran the same speed we did in the test. But we got up to speed, and we raced to a top-five. Talladega was just a whole new learning experience for me.
"We were three wide for a large part of the race and just falling back, back to the front and then just falling back again. It was just a learning process the whole time. At the end we hooked up with [Juan] Montoya and [Mike] Wallace, and we got up to the front on that last restart. We were with a good group and we were pushing along, and it just worked out right there at the end."
McDowell qualified 14th on Thursday for his first-ever ARCA superspeedway start, which was impressive in its own right. The youngster had never been to the track before, but he would be running the same car that finished sixth at the other restrictor plate track on the circuit, Daytona International Speedway, in February for Eddie Sharp Racing. With talent behind the wheel of a car that had a proven track record, McDowell was hoping for a strong run and was rewarded with his first-ever top-five finish.
The fifth-place was certainly hard-earned. He was the victim of the draft on a few occasions and slid towards the rear of the field, but he used everything as a learning lesson and made just as many, if not more, passes back through the field. He had worked to close to the top-10 as the race wore on, eventually getting into the top-five as the caution flag waved just a few laps short of the scheduled finish. Officials called for a checkered flag to signify the race's end due to darkness with McDowell's number-2 Z-Line Designs/Southern New Hampshire University Dodge for Eddie Sharp Racing in fifth.
"It was just a big learning experience. I was learning who you can work with and who you can't work with - who you want to go with, and the timing of it all. You are running so close together for so long that it is very intense in the draft."
Drafting will not be much of an issue in his next and final start of the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series season on Sunday, October 15th. The Prairie Meadows 250 at the new Iowa Speedway brings McDowell, the ESR team and the rest of the ARCA stars to the brand new facility in Newton, IA, for the series' first race there. Catch the race live on SPEED at 2:30pm ET.