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NASCAR Cup Watkins Glen

McDowell was "in the hunt" at The Glen but needed a win

Michael McDowell put together a strong performance in Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International but it was a victory that he needed.

Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Love's Travel Stops Ford Mustang, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro

McDowell showed he had a fast car all weekend, - he qualified third, led 14 laps and utilized a two-pit stop strategy that kept him in the hunt the entire race.

But with 15 different winners this season and mired in 24th in the series standings, only a win is going to put McDowell in the 16-driver NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

McDowell, a solid road racer himself, found himself battling Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – who entered the race with a combined 10 wins on road courses – for the win.

McDowell was leading entering the final stage but Elliott got by him in the carousel on Lap 49 of 90. Larson went on to win after contact with Elliott on a late-race restart while McDowell finished sixth.

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“It is disappointing. I don’t think we quite had enough for (Elliott) or (Larson). I tried to hold them off as long as I could, they just had a bit of pace on me,” McDowell said. “They were pushing me hard enough that I was getting wide and making mistakes.

“I tried to make a move on that second-to-last restart there and got a pretty good run on (Larson) and went to the inside and it just didn’t work out. We got jammed up on the bottom and everyone was smashing into each other and we lost a couple of spots.

“That was pretty much it at that point.”

At any other time of the year, the performance of McDowell and his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team would be celebrated, but instead it stands out as a mixed opportunity.

“It was a good day,” he said. “We had a fast car, it’s just there’s so much on winning a race and getting into the playoffs. Just not enough.

“We’ve got to win to get into these playoffs. But I am proud of everybody at Front Row. We had a fast car and we were in the hunt. It just wasn’t quite enough.”

Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Love's Travel Stops Ford Mustang

Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Love's Travel Stops Ford Mustang

Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images

There is a bright spot ahead for McDowell, however.

The final chance to win his way into the playoffs will come this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, where he earned his first career victory last season in the Daytona 500.

McDowell has been a solid superspeedway racer in his career and finished seventh and eighth, respectively at Daytona and Talladega earlier this season.

“I always feel like Daytona is a must win, because like (road courses), it’s a really good shot for us,” he said. “But different from here, is there’s so many things out of your control at Daytona.

“We’re going to do everything we can. We fight hard.”

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