Josh Berry might have earned the headlines at Richmond with his pit strategy call, but Michael McDowell also took a gamble that paid off handsomely.
The Front Row Motorsports driver hadn’t finished in the top ten in any of the first six races this season, with a best finish of twelfth last week at Circuit of The Americas.
Coming into the weekend, McDowell talked about opportunity races, highlighting Bristol dirt as an example, that he has circled on the calendar.
“Any time there are a lot of variables, any time something’s different, that’s an opportunity,” he said. “You can go make some noise.”
Richmond didn’t seem like one of those opportunity tracks at that point, though. His average finish over 23 starts was a dismal 31.5 with no top tens and plenty of DNFs.
But when Josh Berry’s Hendrick Motorsports team stretched their tires and stayed out, McDowell followed. And both got the caution they needed when Tyler Reddick spun.
McDowell was fifth at the time and came off pit road in 9th in the final round of stops. In the chaotic final restarts, McDowell got up to seventh and passed Martin Truex to secure sixth.
“I think the strategy was a good call,” McDowell said. “A lot of that was our car was really good on the long run and I think we were gonna be 15th or 16th, so you might as well go for it and see if you can’t come up with something good and it worked out.”
“We needed a little bit more speed on the front end and not lose so much track position early on, but the long run speed was great,” he added.
“Had a couple of those runs gone a little longer, I think we would have actually been a little bit better yet, so I’m proud of everybody.”
McDowell’s only other top-twenty points race this year was a 13th-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.
“Phoenix was a good race for us and this obviously being a good race, so I feel like our short track program is turning the corner, at least I hope so. I’m optimistic about that.”
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