McDowell goes from hero at Indy to zero at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 20: Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 20, 2023 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“Please leave your hands and arms inside the ride at all times…” is what Michael McDowell might have heard Sunday at Watkins Glen before a roller coaster ride of a day.

After starting third, McDowell charged to the front leading 17 laps in route to a Stage 1 win, the first laps led of his career at the Glen. On the ensuing green flag stops, McDowell made the mistake of going through too many pit boxes and had to serve a pass-through penalty.

He fought back however and ended Stage 2 on lap 40 in the race that went caution free for 60 laps in 11th.

On that pit stop though a mistake in the pits again cost McDowell as a crewmember went over the wall too soon. He was again given a pass-through and again was forced to fight his way back forward. On lap 74, however, it all ended when his Ford coming out of the bus stop into the carousel as his engine shut off.

He was able to make it back to the pits, but the crew found the engine was expired, and last weeks first place finisher at Indy was the only car to drop out of the race and finished last at Watkins Glen.

“Just the highs and lows of motorsports coming off of last weekend, “McDowel said. “But, I’m still really proud of my guys. This Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang was really fast. Had that penalty early, and we were still able to drive back through the field. Really proud of this team we have.

“Just wasn’t our day – a couple of pit road penalties, and the engine just shut off there. Not sure if it was the engine or electrical. But I just came out of the carousel and it shut off.”

Greg Engle