Getting into Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Michael McDowell had one profession NASCAR Cup Collection win to his identify. Chase Elliott has essentially the most energetic street course wins of any driver (seven).
Elliott additionally drives for essentially the most achieved group within the sport, Hendrick Motorsports, received a Cup championship in 2020 and was on the verge of a second final fall at Phoenix Raceway. McDowell runs for a corporation, Entrance Row Motorsports, but to make it previous the primary spherical of the NASCAR Cup Collection playoffs.
It made the closing laps of Sunday’s Verizon 200 a basic David versus Goliath affair. Too dangerous Goliath by no means even confirmed as much as the battlefield.
“To mainly dominate the weekend,” exclaimed Entrance Row Motorsports GM Jerry Freeze, “Is hardly a Cinderella story.”
Certainly, McDowell took it to them proper from the beginning, main 54 of 82 laps in beating Elliott to the flag by just below a second. In a fast-paced occasion that had the fewest cautions of any Cup race since 2012, Staff FRM by no means gave Elliott, who led only one circuit, an opportunity to get forward of them.
“Congrats to Michael, man,” was all Elliott might say after the race. “He did a great job. Ran an amazing race and stayed mistake free, and that is what you have to do to win.”
The efficiency capped a near-perfect week for McDowell, punching his playoff ticket mere days after announcing a contract extension with Entrance Row for 2024. He is now the one Cup driver with simply two profession wins coming on the two most legendary racetracks in America: Daytona and Indy.
“You solely get rings for sure races,” McDowell joked. “I received the 2 finest rings you will get.”
His success left Hendrick sitting with two of their 4 drivers outdoors playoff place. Each Elliott and Alex Bowman now must win both subsequent week at Watkins Glen or on the common season finale at Daytona to make the postseason. Whereas every driver has suffered via accidents, combining to overlook 10 races, each staying winless was not on the bingo card for a crew that is produced two of the final three NASCAR champions.
Will the momentum of a runner-up end be sufficient for Elliott or Bowman to interrupt via down the stretch? Not if there’s one other McDowell lurking within the shadows. That is the great thing about the game’s Subsequent Gen chassis, cranking out alternatives for middle-tier groups to go toe-to-toe and present they’re each bit as proficient because the heavyweights in entrance of them. Kudos to FRM for delivering what may very well be an sudden knockout punch.
“What we did at present is we had the quickest automotive and we received,” McDowell stated. “I believe it says loads for our race crew and what we have now been in a position to do and what we have been in a position to construct on.”
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Inexperienced: Travis Peterson. Peterson is a first-year crew chief with Entrance Row that left a comfortable job at one other up-and-coming Ford crew, RFK Racing, to take an opportunity on 38-year-old McDowell. McDowell was so upset after dropping former head wrench Blake Harris to Bowman and Hendrick final offseason he almost retired; now, the long run is vibrant with a 31-year-old head wrench that is taking Staff FRM to new heights. “I needed any person that was fiery,” McDowell stated. “I believe that is what takes to take it to the subsequent degree, and he has that… we’re a great mixture.”
Yellow: Daniel Suarez. The 2022 Sonoma winner ran third and appeared to be the one driver able to difficult McDowell, momentum that bodes nicely for Watkins Glen. However a expensive pit street mistake where an air hose got stuck beneath the automotive would be the distinction for whether or not this Trackhouse Racing driver finally ends up on the precise aspect of the playoff bubble.
Pink: AJ Allmendinger. The street course ace picked the improper time to start out slumping, spinning out and working twenty sixth at a monitor the place he received simply two years in the past. Three straight runs outdoors the highest 25 have taken him proper out of playoff competition; will it additionally trigger him to rethink working Cup full-time for Kaulig in 2024?
Rushing Ticket: Highway course ringers. Expectations had been excessive for these drivers invading the game after Shane van Gisbergen’s shock victory at Chicago earlier this summer season. SVG put in one other stable efficiency, working tenth with a single lap led, however everybody else did not crack the highest 20. Amongst them: SVG’s supercars rival Brodie Kostecki (twenty second), DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller (twenty fourth), F1 champion Jenson Button (twenty eighth) and FIA World Endurance racer Kamui Kobayashi (thirty third). It is a return to normalcy and a reminder of how tough it’s to take your expertise to completely different collection and win. No warning flags for changes damage these drivers as they struggled to regulate to how the Subsequent Gen chassis handles on a street course.
Slim pickings this weekend for a race that had just one warning flag. That got here when Joey Logano and Justin Haley made contact, sending the Kaulig Racing driver straight into the tire barrier on lap two.
Haley limped residence the remainder of the day, ruining maybe one among his few alternatives to tug a postseason upset: he ran runner-up to SVG on the Chicago Road Course in July.