It was an honor and a blast for us to be a part of Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell’s journey during the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series. In the wake of everything that was going on last year, watching McDowell in the No. 34 CarParts.com Ford Mustang gave our team a source of inspiration to rally around throughout the season. We were proud to witness McDowell rack up an impressive number of career-best finishes, including five top-10 finishes and 12 top-15 finishes.
On top of all that, Michael McDowell has the attitude of a real winner—passionate, persevering, and humble. Naturally, we couldn’t think of a more motivating way to start the new year than with advice from the man himself (just as we couldn’t think of a better way to unveil our new brand identity than with McDowell and the No. 34). We asked fans to send in their personal questions, and McDowell replied generously with tips on driving, goal-setting, treating your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, and much more.
Q and A with NASCAR Cup Series Driver Michael McDowell
Q: What’s your favorite hobby that we don’t know about?
– Wyatt Sholley
A: Hi, Wyatt. I don’t think that I have any hobbies that people are unaware of, but my two favorite ones are definitely hunting and fishing. In the off-season or during an off-weekend from racing, I try to get out as much as possible and enjoy the outdoors, whether that’s in a tree stand or on a riverbank.
A lot of the guys on my team also share the same passions for hunting, so we try to plan a few team outings on days that we get done early at the race track, where we’ll look for a nearby skeet shooting range and do some target practicing.
My family also enjoys hunting and fishing, so it’s a blast when we can all get out together and enjoy the outdoors.
I hope you have an awesome New Year and thanks for the question!
Q: Hey Michael. I’ve watched you work your way up from the lower series to a good ride in the Cup Series. But one moment that sticks out in my mind is your 2016 Road America win in a one-off with Richard Childress Racing. With all that you’ve done in your racing life, where does that win rank?
– Brett Baker
A: Hey, Brett. My 2016 win at Road America is without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of my career. As a driver, any time you find Victory Lane, it’s a really special moment because it’s reassuring in the sense that you feel like you belong in the sport. You’re competing against the best of the best and a win definitely proves that you can compete.
As far as my biggest accomplishment though, I would probably have to say that making my first Daytona 500 start is the one that stands out the most to me. There are so many drivers out there that dedicate their lives to racing and dream of one day making it to the Cup Series, and for me, when I took the green flag in my first Daytona 500, I knew that I had made it and that all of the years of hard work, practice, and missing out on different life events was worth it because I achieved my goal of being one in only a handful to make it to the sport’s premier level.
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable New Year!
Q: I coach for a high school football team that is not very good. We struggle to maintain excitement throughout the year because our kids begin to lose faith. How do you keep excitement and engagement going throughout the NASCAR season when things may not be going your way? What drives you to continue to compete each week?
– Mike Johnson
A: Hi, Mike. This is definitely a big challenge in all sports, but even more so in ones that only highlight the winners instead of the top-3; or in racing, typically the top-10.
My advice would be to first accept where your team ranks amongst its competition and begin to set realistic goals based on that for the overall season–whether it’s trying to perfect a play during a game or figuring out an area where each play can improve, and then defining what success should look like by the end of the season.
Maybe try improving those aspects of your team and have them concentrate on those instead of on the overall win factor? A lot of one’s satisfaction is based on effort, and what drives me in my career is doing more with less and maximizing the opportunities.
Right now, our team knows that we won’t be competing for wins or top-10’s each and every race, and we’ve accepted it. So, at the beginning of the season, we try to set realistic goals, like finishing the year inside of the top-25 in Owner Points, aiming to finish each race inside of the top-20 or top-15, and minimizing mistakes during races.
If we can accomplish those things, then at the end of the season, we can look back and consider it a successful year. That way, when we do overachieve on our expectations and earn a top-5 or top-10 finish, the feeling of accomplishment is that much greater.
Wishing you and your team all the best for the upcoming season!
Q: Michael, what does special quiet time look like for you after a race?
– Lee Mitchelson
A: Hi, Lee. It is actually very difficult to have quiet time after a race because your adrenaline is still pumping and you’re pretty amped up; whether that’s because of a good finish or a bad one. But what helps to calm me down more than anything is my family. After a long 400- or 500-mile race, nothing’s better than being able to go back to my motorhome or our house and see my wife and kids. They really help me to switch from race mode, back to being a husband and a dad.
Thanks for your question and I hope you have a great New Year!
Q: Hey Michael, any advice on what to give my dream girl for Valentine’s Day? Good luck in 2021!
– Elias May
A: Hi, Elias. That’s definitely a tough one, but my best advice for Valentine’s Day is to not forget the date!
In all honesty, I think that Valentine’s Day is mainly about spending time with the person that you love and care about. Depending on where you live and the weather, you can plan a picnic with her favorite takeout food at a scenic overlook in your truck bed or the trunk of your car or SUV. Or maybe you can just enjoy some hot chocolate and watch the snow fall from the comfort of your front seats. It never hurts to bring a game or two for fun! Whatever it is that you decide to do or get her, if it’s thoughtful and from the heart, she is bound to love it. Don’t forget that it’s not always about the gift, but the thought behind it.
If that advice still doesn’t help you, you can never go wrong with jewelry! Maybe something with her birthstone in it? Whatever you decide to get her, I am sure she will love it.
Good luck and I hope you have a wonderful New Year spent with this special girl!
Q: I failed my driver’s license test today, and since you’re one of the best of the best, I was wondering if you could give this guy some advice to become a better driver on the road.
– Vincent Aube
A: Hi, Vincent. I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with your driver’s test! Which part did you fail?
If it’s the written portion, then you’ve got to study harder in the sections that you’re struggling with. The internet is a great place to find different quizzes and study guides that will help you get better.
If it’s the driving portion, then you need to put more time in behind the wheel and practice with somebody that is a good driver. There’s an old saying that “practice makes perfect,” so try to focus on the areas of your driving that need improving and keep practicing them.
You’ve got this! I hope you have a great New Year!
Q: What is one of the most valuable things you’ve learned through this pandemic?
– Donald Brown
A: Hey, Donald. That’s a really good question.
Probably the most valuable thing that I’ve learned during the pandemic is the value of time, because it’s never guaranteed. A lot of us are guilty of taking our lives, relationships, and possessions for granted, and the pandemic has certainly made me realize more than ever, how quickly one’s sense of “normal” can change.
Take time to enjoy the things in life that matter the most to you, spend quality time with family and loved ones, and create memories that you will always look back on and smile.
Lastly, don’t hold a grudge or sweat the little stuff. If you’re upset with someone, try to think 5 or 10 years into the future and really decide if what’s bothering you now, will still be relevant or keeping you up at night in the years to come. If the answer is no, then do your best to let it go because life is too short to be angry!
Wishing you all of the best in 2021!
Q: Hey Michael, what are your 2021 racing goals?
– Dakota Steele
A: Hi, Dakota. Not only for the upcoming race season, but for every year since my start in the Cup Series, my goal has pretty much stayed the same, and that’s to win a race in the NASCAR Cup Series.
At Front Row Motorsports, we understand where we rank amongst the competition and know that we won’t be competing for wins every race weekend, so we like to try and set realistic goals like finishing top-25 in the Owner Points or trying to consecutively finish inside of the top-20 or top-15 each race. But some tracks, primarily the superspeedways and road courses, we know that we have a real shot at winning, so for me personally, each year I circle those race dates on the calendar as opportunities for me to get my first NASCAR Cup Series win.
Thanks for your question and have a safe and enjoyable New Year!
Q: How do you deal with failure? Have you had any experiences where you thought it was all over when you didn’t achieve your goal?
– Daniel McKoy
A: Hey, Daniel. Unfortunately, failure is not only a part of our sport, it’s also a part of life. Nobody is perfect at everything and it takes a lot of time, effort, and discipline to master a specific skill.
For example, although there are 40 drivers in the Cup Series that take the green flag each race weekend during our season, the harsh reality for me is that there’s only going to be one winner and thirty-nine losers when the checkered flag is waving. So, you can’t let failure define who you are.
Knowing that you’re putting in the time, effort, and discipline is what you can control each and every day, and if you’re consistently giving it your all, even if it takes what might feel like a lifetime, you’ll eventually turn what you consider to be failure, into success!
Wishing you a successful New Year!
Q: I’ve had a serious lack of happiness lately from some issues with some people I used to call friends, and one of my few sources comes from seeing that No. 34 on the track. Honestly, I haven’t been feeling very blessed lately due to some serious hate I’ve been receiving from other people, and I feel really bad about some things I’ve done. How can I turn things around and get back on the right track? Thanks!
– Andrew Fronsee
A: Hi, Andrew. I am so sorry that this has been a challenging time for you. Turning things around isn’t always easy or dependent on you.
When I’m in those tough spots or dark places, I lean on my faith and lean on the Lord to: (1) provide peace and contentment, and (2) to reconcile relationships.
I recommend taking time each day to pray about the things that are troubling you. I also recommend taking up a hobby or focusing your spare time on something that makes you happy.
Maybe try to work on perfecting something that you’re good at, or if you don’t already, try exercising when you’re feeling down. Exercise releases natural endorphins, dopamine, and adrenaline into your body, which are all brain chemicals that help to make you feel happy and less stressed.
I truly appreciate your support of our race program and I really hope that our No. 34 team can help to bring you more happiness during the 2021 season and beyond! I’ll definitely be driving with a chip on my shoulder for you this season!
I hope that you find my advice helpful and that the New Year brings you an abundance of happiness.
Q: There have been many professing Christians in NASCAR; people like Lake Speed, Darryl Waltrip, and Bobby Hillin. Do you ever look to them for spiritual help or guidance in your journey? Also, what is your favorite Bible passage? Big fan, hoping to see your first victory this year!!
– Scott O’Dell
A: Hey, Scott. The answer is yes! I have a lot of respect for all of the drivers that you mentioned. They have definitely helped to pave the way, along with many others in our sport.
You might not know this, but they were also the ones that founded MRO (Motor Racing Outreach), which is the ministry that travels with our sport and provides spiritual support to drivers and their families, as well as weekly service to crew members. My wife and I are on the board for MRO with the Waltrip’s, the Speed’s, the Parsons’s, and many others, so it’s very cool for us to see all that they’ve done.
My favorite Bible verse is James:1. Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We certainly share the same aspirations for the upcoming season! I hope you have a great New Year and thank you for all of your support.