Michael McDowell all the time goes right into a NASCAR Cup Collection highway course occasion feeling assured and ready to win. For the primary time in his profession, he’ll deliver an enormous trophy with him.
McDowell earned his first NASCAR Cup Collection profession victory within the Daytona 500 final weekend and the highway course specialist arrives for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Elements 253 (3 p.m. ET; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) on the Daytona Worldwide Speedway highway course able to make it two in a row.
MORE: Full outcomes from 2021 Daytona 500
Ought to he pull off the back-to-back wins, McDowell could be solely the sixth driver in historical past to win the season’s opening two races. The final to take action was Matt Kenseth in 2009. However McDowell has good cause to be optimistic. He’s a earlier IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Collection highway course race winner and has a finest end of third in seven Rolex 24 races on the Daytona highway course.
“We really feel actually optimistic and assured,” stated McDowell, who completed tenth within the No. 34 Entrance Row Motorsports Ford on the Daytona Highway Course final summer time.
“We had a top-five automobile a lot of the day final yr. [Crew chief] Drew [Blickensderfer] and I went for it close to the top with taking tires, however we didn’t get a late race warning so the technique didn’t work like we needed.”
McDowell acknowledged he and his group carry excessive expectations into this highway course weekend.
Watch dwell NASCAR racing with fuboTV (7-day free trial)
“Even with out the Daytona 500 win, we might nonetheless really feel assured coming again this weekend. We have now actually labored laborious on our highway course program this offseason and we’re getting higher. It’s one other good alternative for us,” he stated.
After all, McDowell must beat the identical driver he edged within the Daytona 500. Reigning NASCAR Cup Collection driver Chase Elliott has gained the final 4 sequence highway programs relationship to 2019. 5 of Elliott’s 11 profession sequence wins have come on highway course venues, together with the 2020 race on the three.61-mile, 14-turn Daytona Highway Course.
Elliott’s 8.92 profession common end on highway programs within the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is finest amongst energetic drivers. His crew chief, Alan Gustafson, a Daytona Seashore native, is the winningest energetic crew chief on highway programs with 5 wins.
Final summer time, Elliott held off Denny Hamlin by 0.202 seconds to earn the sequence’ inaugural race victory on the Daytona course, main a race-best 34 of the 65 laps on a day of blended climate that featured 13 lead adjustments amongst six drivers.
Elliott gained each highway programs final season (at Daytona and at Charlotte) and was main on the Daytona infield within the non-points Busch Conflict occasion on Feb. 9 earlier than contact with Ryan Blaney on the ultimate flip of the ultimate lap. He recovered to complete second.
“Highway programs have been good to us the previous few journeys, however that doesn’t imply it’s going to go good each time,” Elliott stated. “There has not been one a part of me that watched the schedule change, noticed seven highway programs and thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve received it now.’ That’s simply not how I’m.
“On the finish of the day, it’s a must to be good all over the place and I need to be good all over the place. We as a group need to get to the purpose the place we are able to win on any given week; highway course, circle monitor, intermediate, grime . . . no matter it’s, we wish to have the ability to win at any time. The good groups and the nice drivers are able to doing that and I feel we’re able to doing that. In order that’s the place my head’s at, attempting to be good all over the place.”
Elliott and McDowell will begin on the entrance row Sunday, simply forward of Austin Dillon, who leads the NASCAR Cup Collection championship standings for the primary time in his profession. He completed simply behind McDowell and Elliott within the Daytona 500. With two top-five finishes within the race’s opening levels plus his third-place standing on the checkered, Dillon holds a six-point benefit over Denny Hamlin within the championship standings.
Holly Cain writes for the NASCAR Wire Service.