New Hampshire Cup Race is Meaningful for McDowell and his ...
New Hampshire Cup Race is Meaningful for McDowell and his #00 Champion Mortgage Michael Waltrip Racing Team
LOUDON, N.H. (June 25, 2008) -- Michael McDowell aims to top his best career finish this weekend as he enters New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first time with his #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota Camry.
"The only racing experience I have at New Hampshire is racing a simulator at home," McDowell said. "We almost had a top-20 finish last weekend at Infineon Raceway. We scored points, which gave us a little breathing room in the top-35. Finishing hasn't been a problem for us and we've got to keep that going. We need more performance on track and we will be fine. We have a unique situation because both Bill Pappas (crew chief) and I are new to the sport with a new car. He's won a lot of championships in IRL, but in this deal we are trying to deliver results and at the same time understand what we need to do better at an accelerated pace. I went straight from ARCA to Cup, so being able to qualify, finish the race and keep this car in the top-35 is an accomplishment in itself. Getting through the growing pains is what we are doing now. This weekend we look to build on that."
McDowell may be new to the New England area, but he is quite familiar with the track's history and this weekend he will carry a special decal to honor the family who formerly owned New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"The Bahre family is special to Michael Waltrip and Michael Waltrip Racing and this weekend we have a special decal on my Champion Mortgage Toyota," McDowell said. "It's to honor the family and all they have done for Waltrip's career and racing in general. Before Bob, Dick Bahre and the family literally built New Hampshire, Dick gave Michael his first shot as a competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series over two decades ago. That's something Waltrip has never forgotten."
As Bahre is meaningful to Waltrip's career, Waltrip is significant to McDowell's profession.
"Michael took a chance on me just as Rob Finlay did," McDowell said. "Both of them have been vitally important in my progression to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level. Just as Michael still thanks the Bahre's after 20 plus years, I want to be in the position to do the same. I appreciate the people who have helped me along the way."
As McDowell prepares for his first visit to the 1.058-mile oval, two of his crew members are ready for their homecoming. Greg Osborne (car chief and rear tire changer) is from Hampton Beach, New Hampshire and Troy Prince (rear tire carrier) is from York, Maine.
"I won my very first Cup race with Joe Nemechek in 1999 at New Hampshire, which really meant something because I'm from there," Osborne said. "After that, I went to Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) to work with Michael Waltrip and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. It was an incredible feeling to win our first Daytona 500. I was with him for four years and won a total of four races together before moving to the #8 car with Dale Earnhardt Jr."
Prince has similar memories, but one sticks out above all the rest.
"Sure winning the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. was cool, but that is not my most memorable moment," Prince said. "When I was working for the Wood Brothers in 2000 walking through the garage, Big E (Dale Earnhardt) came up to me at Bristol and pinched me on the neck. I didn't even know him. When he did that to me, I felt like I was part of the NASCAR family. Growing up, he was my idol. For him to acknowledge me, I knew I belonged."
Both Osborne and Prince left DEI to help build Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007.
"Ty Norris talked to me about a vision shaping up, which intrigued me because I watched what Ray Evernham did from the ground up," Prince said. "When I went to DEI and won all those races it was great, but they would have won the races with or without me because they were an established team. When Michael Waltrip Racing got ready to open up, it was an opportunity to be a part of something special. They allowed me to do what I wanted to do and just work solely on speedway cars, wind tunnel development, and still carry tires. When we do capture our first Cup win, it will mean so much more to me because I was here from the beginning."
Osborne remembers the first year.
"Our on track performance didn't show all the improvements that we had made and how we built three Cup teams from scratch," Osborne said. "Sure, we struggled and it was a bigger undertaking than anyone has done before. In some ways it made us stronger. This year is easier in so many ways and most people don't understand that. We haven't really had the pressure every week of worrying whether or not we will be here Saturday or Sunday. Now, we can focus on our race package on Friday and our inspection process. We don't have to spend Friday and Saturday morning converting our car from qualifying trim to race trim."
Both Osborne and Prince have won NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races with the likes of the Earnhardts and Waltrip. They have seen and experienced a lot in this sport and have confidence in their latest driver.
"I really like Michael McDowell because he is confident and thinks he can do it," Osborne said. "I would rather have someone that thinks he can do it than have someone come in that says, 'well I don't know if I can do this.' He has confidence. I also like him because he takes time to talk to the guys whether it is at the track or at the shop or fishing on the lake. A little thing like going with us to lunch goes a long way. His attitude is good and he's an all around good person."
"I think McDowell is a very smart race car driver," Prince said. "Right now, he is trying to understand the new car. He is trying to figure it all out. A lot of these tracks, he's never been to before. I have worked with rookies in the past and he has torn up far less equipment than any other rookie that I have ever worked with in my career. He's doing a really good job. We're all looking forward to seeing him race at New Hampshire and delivering a strong finish in front of our hometown crowd."