NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell

2010 Rides: Nos. 55 and 66 PRISM Motorsports Toyotas, No. 46 Whitney Motorsports Chevy/Dodge
2010 Primary Sponsors: Firefly Vodka (No. 55, Daytona) Curb Records (No. 55, Indianapolis), Cash America (No. 46, three races), Whitney’s Collision Centers (No. 46, two races), and I’m not making this up: Conely for School Board/Whitney’s Collision Centers (No. 46, Charlotte)
2010 Owners: Phil Parsons (Nos. 55/66), Dusty Whitney (No. 46)
2010 Crew Chiefs: Crew chiefs? Really, do start and parks have crew chiefs? OK, since I’m “snowed in” under a paralyzing one-inch of precipitation as the City of Nashville panics, I’ll tell you the best I could ascertain: Buddy Sisco and Jeremy Lafaver split the chiefing duties at Whitney Motorsports while Zach McGowan and Gene Nead told him on what lap to bring it in while driving for Parsons.
Stats: 24 races, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 0 poles, 45th in points

High Point: OK, I’m going to skip the sarcasm here, because there are simply too many ways to go with it for me to make up my mind. But McDowell’s 2010 high point must have been the 10th-place finish he scored at Watkins Glen in the Nationwide Series. As for the Cup side, I suppose the one race he actually finished (Talladega, November) is the only semblance of being a real Cup driver McDowell was afforded this season. Even then, he drove his Whitney Motorsports ride to a 35th-place showing, so let’s not confuse the performance as being competitive.

Low Point: It’s my line of thinking that start-and-park efforts are deemed successes or failures each week on whether they qualify or not. Therefore, if McDowell’s 24 starts were viewed as successful ventures by Parsons and Whitney, the eight DNQs sprinkled throughout the year must have been the low points (from said owners’ business model’s perspective, anyway).

Summary: Again, I’m trying to bite my tongue, because I know McDowell, like most up-and-comers, will take any ride in the Cup Series that comes calling. Hey, the kid is trying to make a name for himself any way he can in NASCAR, and that Texas qualifying wreck a couple years back isn’t what he wants to be remembered for.

That said, here’s a summary of McDowell’s season: Fly in on Thursday night or Friday morning. Practice the car in qualifying trim exclusively. Qualify. That’s where the weekend goes one of two ways:

Scenario A.) McDowell makes the show: Run a couple laps in Saturday’s practice session(s), but not too many, because the owners don’t want to spend unnecessary money on tires or tax an engine they need to use another three or four times. Do the pre-race thing on Sunday morning where he gets to talk to other drivers in the background of FOX’s or TNT’s or ESPN’s pre-race show. Crank engine, run warm-up laps, accelerate when green flag flies, wait for crew chief to tell him when to park the car. Wait on whoever he’s hitching a plane ride back with. Board plane. Go home.

Scenario B.) McDowell does not qualify. Walk out of track. Extend thumb. Hitch ride home.

Team Ranking: N/A. Seriously, need I continue to pile on the poor kid? I could really give it to Parsons here for making a business model out of S&Ping, or to NASCAR for basically encouraging it, but I’ll pass because the neighbor kids outside are having a snowball fight and the quicker I’m done here…

2011 Outlook: McDowell, a multiple-time ARCA and Daytona Prototype winner, is currently set to run a full schedule in the Nationwide Series in 2011 for MacDonald Motorsports in the No. 81 Dodge. While his Cup Series plans aren’t solidified, it’s assumed he will once again bounce between start-and-park operations on the senior circuit, continuing to attempt to put cars in the show.

After all, jumping in the seat of rides like Tommy Baldwin’s No. 36 and the aforementioned Whitney and PRISM Motorsports vehicles keeps him physically present in the Cup garage. And for a driver clawing and scratching to get another shot in stock car racing’s premier series, in the show but going slow is better than out of sight, out of mind.

2008 Frontstretch Grade: D
2009 Grade: N/A
2010 Grade: F

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