ShareThis Page
Michael McDowell defends Daytona 500 decision not to push Joey Logano |
U.S./World Sports

Michael McDowell defends Daytona 500 decision not to push Joey Logano

Associated Press
Denny Hamlin (11) takes the checkered flag to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael McDowell was still digesting his fifth-place finish at the Daytona 500 when Joey Logano appeared at the front of his car, angrily pointing at the Ford logo.

He was questioning McDowell’s loyalty to the brand.

“He shows up pointing at the Ford emblem, pushing on the Ford, making his point ‘Hey, you are a Ford driver, why didn’t you push me?’ ” McDowell told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s a two-way street, and if I got out of the car and started screaming at Joey for not going with me, everybody would say I was ridiculous and that I don’t belong up there and am not fast enough. God forbid I don’t push him to a win. Now I’m the bad guy?”

The tension between a pair of Ford drivers is the fallout from a disappointing Daytona 500 for the blue oval brand. The manufacturer debuted its new Mustang at Daytona International Speedway and positioned its stable of drivers as heavy favorites to win. Most manufacturers align their teams to work together at Daytona and Talladega with the goal of getting one of their drivers — doesn’t matter who — into victory lane.

Ford fell short in the final overtime sprint to the checkered flag Sunday, perhaps because McDowell made a lane change that separated him from Logano. Both drivers were trying to win, yet both probably needed to work together to have any chance at catching winner Denny Hamlin. Instead, Ford wound up locked out of a Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota podium sweep. Logano finished fourth ahead of McDowell.

McDowell didn’t want to hear about brand loyalty in the aftermath of the race: “I just told him that my team doesn’t pay me to push Joey Logano to a win.”

McDowell is winless in 286 Cup starts since 2008 and doesn’t drive for one of NASCAR’s superstar teams. He moved last season to Front Row Motorsports, one of NASCAR’s smaller teams, and managed one top-10 finish but was tied for a career-best 26th in the final Cup standings.

“I don’t have many chances to win races,” McDowell said. “I have maybe four or five shots a year to try to win a race. These other guys, they have 35 more chances. I needed to take my chance to win a race.”

Logano is NASCAR’s reigning champion and a former Daytona 500 winner.

So when McDowell found himself lined up with the leaders in the closing laps of the Daytona 500, he was racing for the victory with no time to consider team alliances. He pulled out of the bottom lane, away from Logano, and tried to hook onto Kyle Busch in the top lane. The move hampered Logano’s shot to catch Hamlin for the win.

McDowell has watched replays, spoken with Logano and Ford executives, and said he now realizes his best bet for a win would have been staying in line behind Logano.

“You’ve got a split-second decision to make a move, and I had the momentum and thought it was best to go the outside and thought that was the right move,” McDowell said. “Looking back at it, if I could do it over again, the bottom would have been better for me.”

He remains adamant it was not his responsibility to help Logano win.

Teamwork between manufacturers can work but often depends on where drivers fall in the alliance.

Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing are the big shots at Ford. McDowell and the Front Row Motorsports group seem more like distant cousins. McDowell said he, David Ragan and their teams were not privy to the Penske and SHR pit strategy at Daytona. SHR driver Clint Bowyer weaved around McDowell late in the race, a move that dumped McDowell into a slower middle lane, then cut McDowell off to create another late multicar accident as Bowyer tried to force his way back into line.

“Those guys don’t work with Front Row Motorsports at all,” McDowell said. “They don’t help us at all. They want us to be there to support them when they need it, but they don’t let us in on when they’re going to pit. They don’t share strategy. They don’t tell us what’s going on. And so my frustration with Joey is, ‘Don’t come to me talking about brand loyalty when you guys don’t do nothing to help us. And you want me to help you when you don’t do anything for us?’ ”

McDowell’s finish at Daytona was a career best, and he is ninth in the Cup standings as NASCAR shifts to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend with a new rules package that is designed to tighten the on-track competition. The idea behind the rules is to slow the cars to keep them closer together and improve passing opportunities.

If it works, then drivers like McDowell might be able to consistently compete with the big teams. McDowell has seven career top-10 finishes, all but one was at either Daytona or Talladega.

“If this package races like Daytona and Talladega, I’m going to be in a great spot,” McDowell said. “Hopefully we can have some highlights and put ourselves in a position to make some noise.”

Categories: Sports | US-World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.