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Michael McDowell Earns Career-Best Phoenix Finish of 13th in Return Home

NASCAR Cup Series

Top Dog: Michael McDowell

Everyone likes to play at home. Whether it is basketball, baseball, football and of course, NASCAR.

A home race is always special for drivers. Just look at guys like Denny Hamlin at Richmond Raceway, Jimmie Johnson at Auto Club Speedway or Tony Stewart at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For Valley of the Sun native Michael McDowell, Phoenix Raceway has been special to him; but his record at the 1-mile track has left something to be desired.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s (March 12) United Rentals Work United 500, McDowell left with a career-best Phoenix result of 13th.

McDowell and the Front Row Motorsports team were racing with heavy hearts, as Tom Love, the founder of longtime sponsor Love’s Travel Stops, passed away at the age of 85.

With Love’s name on the decklid of the No. 34, McDowell opened up the week flexing his muscles by qualifying seventh for the race, his first top-10 start at the 1-miler.

Free on exit, McDowell moderately slid down the order but held strong inside the top 15 to finish stage one in 13th.

He then held steady inside the top 15 during stage two, but he was bitten with a speeding penalty midway through, pushing him outside the top 20. However, he would take the wave around during a caution to get back on the lead lap, wrapping up stage two in 21st.

The 38-year-old slowly but surely moved up through the field during the final stage, using short pitting to gain some spots during a green flag cycle. The No. 34 got up to 13th when a caution flew with 10 laps remaining.

McDowell took four tires on the final stop of the day, setting him for the short sprint to the finish. Initially, he was stranded in 17th on the restart, but another caution gave him new life for an overtime restart. He didn’t pass on that opportunity, gaining four spots to cross the line in 13th.

In 24 previous starts in the desert, McDowell had earned a pair of 16th-place results, his only top 20s at the track.

The top 15 was a welcome sight for a team who was coming off their best season in 2022. In three starts this season, McDowell had an average finish of 23.7, with no finish higher than 18th.

Putting together a solid weekend at his home track may be what McDowell needs moving forward.

Who Impressed

After a trying day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a week ago, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. landed back inside the top 20 this weekend. Stenhouse struggled for most of the race, getting…

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