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December 11, 2023

Michael McDowell 2023 season in review


Michael McDowell looks on.
Jonathan Bachman
Getty Images

Editor’s note: This continues a series where we review the top 20 drivers in 2023 NASCAR Cup Series points.

Season in review: Michael McDowell
No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
Crew chief: Travis Peterson
Final 2023 Ranking: 15th
Key stats: 1 win, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s, 97 laps led

How 2023 ended: Like a bottle of fine wine, McDowell continues improving with age. After finishing a career-best 16th in 2021 at the age of 36, including his win in the Daytona 500, McDowell, now 38, he had an even better season in 2023. He earned his second career Cup victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. He also led a career-high 97 laps over the entire season and wrapped up the 2023 campaign with a ninth-place finish in his hometown race at Phoenix Raceway.

RELATED: ‘Hardly a Cinderella story’: Indy win, playoff ticket highlight McDowell’s rise with Front Row

Best race: McDowell’s best race was his win at the Brickyard. Unlike his win in the 2021 Daytona 500, when he led just one lap (the final lap), McDowell dominated this past season’s race on the Indy Road Course, leading 54 of the event’s 82 laps and earning 59 total points, all single-race career highs for him.

Other season highlights: McDowell made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the second time in his career, finishing a career-best 15th. He has now reached the postseason twice in the last three seasons.

Stat to know: Admittedly, McDowell struggled early in his career on both superspeedways and road courses. But since 2021, he’s earned four top-10 finishes (including his win in the 2021 Daytona 500) in 12 starts at Daytona and Talladega. McDowell continues to build an excellent reputation as one of the most unsung road-course racers in the NASCAR Cup Series. In a combined 12 road-course races and one street-course start in 2022 and 2023, McDowell qualified in the top-10 11 times and had eight top-10 race finishes.

Quotable: “It’s special. There’s not a cooler moment than winning the Daytona 500. But to do it and not have my family there (in 2021), it was tough. So, I always cherry-pick the races they come to. They can’t come to all of them, but they come to the ones that we think we can win. Today, we did it!” – Michael McDowell after winning this past August at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

RELATED: Culture shift, breaking down walls fueling Front Row Motorsports’ rise

Looking ahead: After qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs twice in the last three seasons, don’t look for McDowell, who turns 39 on Dec. 21, to slow down or retire anytime soon. He continues to have stronger results each season and can enjoy the recent success he’s had in his career. As for 2024, with wins in two of the last three seasons (each time earning a playoff berth), look for McDowell to not only likely make the playoffs again but once again and build off his steady success.

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