• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Countdown to the Clash: Michael McDowell back to Front Row Motorsports in 2023

ByEvan McNelia

Jan 2, 2023
Michael McDowell looks on

Michael McDowell is back with Front Row Motorsports in 2023, running his sixth season in the No. 34 Ford. At 38 years oldMcDowell is one of the most experienced drivers in the NASCAR field. He is entering his 16th season in the Cup Series as he made his debut in 2008 with Michael Waltrip Racing.

It took McDowell a while to find his stride at the Cup level but he has found his highest levels of success in recent seasons. Front Row Motorsports has given him the best setup of his Cup Series career despite being a smaller team. 

In the last five years in the No. 34, McDowell has run in all 180 possible races after having to qualify for most races throughout his earlier career. McDowell missed 24 races due to not qualifying between 2008 and 2015. Between 2009 and 2013 with Phil Parsons racing — formerly HP Racing and Prism Motorsports, — McDowell did not finish in 96 of the 119 races he ran.

His 2016 and 2017 seasons with Leavine Family Racing and the last five years with Front Row Motorsports have offered much greater consistency for his career. McDowell has finished 23rd twice in the last three years and made the playoffs in 2021 after recording his first career win at the Daytona 500.

Daytona has always been a strong track for McDowell. In his 13 appearances, he’s qualified for 11 runnings. He’s posted eight top-20s, five top-10s, two top-5s and the 2021 win. He finished 16th in the standings with his playoff berth in 2021, the best finish in the standings of his career.

Last season McDowell had one of the most consistent years of his career recording 23 top-20 finishes. He finished in the top 10 12 times and recorded third-place finishes at Sonoma and Talladega. The Next Gen car helped McDowell to the best average start of his career, averaging 17th on the pole. He also recorded his best average finish with 16.7, showing consistent ability to hold and improve on his qualifying position. 

He will be led by a new crew chief in 2023 as Travis Peterson will oversee the No. 34 car. Peterson spent the last five seasons with Roush Fenway Racing as lead engineer, working with Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth as drivers. Roush Fenway had two drivers place top-25 in the point standings in 2022.

At the 2022 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, McDowell made the main race after running the 12th-best qualifying time and placing third in his heat race to reach the main event. After starting 12th, McDowell finished 16th in the main race. 

34 days out from the 2023 Clash at the Coliseum, McDowell will look to get Front Row Motorsports back to the playoffs alongside his teammate Todd Gilliland. Coming off of his most consistent season the seasoned veteran will be hungry to get back into victory lane this season.