Michael McDowell is an American stock car racing driver who is active in NASCAR since 2007, recording over 350 starts in all three national divisions. He scored just one victory in a career, in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Road America in 2016.
Early in a career, McDowell was a champion in the 2004 Star Mazda Championship and he recorded two starts in the 2005 Champ Car season. He also spent few seasons in the sports car racing, participating six times at Daytona 24 Hours, finishing best in the third place in 2012.
Converting successful karting career into successful car racing debut
Born in December 1994 in Glendale, Arizona, Michael Christopher McDowell started a career by driving go-karts at the age 8. After ten years in karting competitions, scoring numerous wins and winning few championship titles, he entered his first car racing championship in 2002.
It was the Formula Renault USA, in which he scored two wins to finish second in the final standings. In 2003, he moved to the Star Mazda Championship, scoring two wins during a season to finish again as the runner-up.
Dominantly winning the Star Mazda Championship in 2004
Next year, he was a dominant driver in the Star Mazda Championship, winning seven out of ten races to take the championship trophy.
In June 2004, McDowell also made a debut in the Grand-Am Sports Car Series, driving a Porsche 996 GT3 Cup for G&W Motorsports at Watkins Glen 6 Hours. His co-drivers were Tom Nastasi and Mae Van Vijk.
2005 – first full season in the Grand-Am Sports Car Series
In 2005, McDowell joined Finlay Motorsports/Ten Motorsports to participate full season in the Grand-Am Sports Car Series. He was driving the #19 Riley-BMW prototype in thirteen races, scoring one victory and two podiums to finish seventh in the final standings.
His full-time partner during a season was Memo Gidley, with Michael Valiante joining in two races and Jonathan Bomarito in one race. McDowell and Gidley were the race winners at Mexico 250 Miles. In the same year, McDowell was driving BMW M3 for Finlay Motorsports in the Grand-Am Cup.
Two Champ Car starts in 2005 with Rocketsports
In October 2005, McDowell made a Champ Car debut with Rocketsports team, replacing Ryan Hunter-Reay in the last two races of the season, at Surfers Paradise in Australia and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
Driving the #31 Lola-Cosworth, he finished 12th in Australia and 11th in Mexico. Those two starts remained McDowell's last attempts in the open-wheel racing.
2006 – one more Grand-Am season with Finlay Motorsports
McDowell stayed with Finlay Motorsports in the 2006 Grand-Am Sports Car Series season, driving the #19 Crawford DP03-Ford under the banner of Playboy/Uniden Racing. Memo Gidley was again his main co-driver but he also shared a car with Alex Barron and Guy Cosmo.
They scored no wins and McDowell finished again seventh in the final standings. The only podium was the second place for McDowell, Gidley and Cosmo at Miller 9 Hours.
Starting a stock car racing career in 2006
In 2006, while racing a full season in the Grand-Am Series, McDowell started his stock car racing career with five starts in the ARCA Series. He was driving the #2 Dodge Charger for Eddie Sharp. In 2007, he spent full ARCA Series season in the #2 Dodge, scoring four wins in 23 races to finish second in the final standings, behind Frank Kimmel.
In 2007, McDowell also made a debut in NASCAR national divisions, participating in three races of the Busch Series with Michael Waltrip's #00 Toyota and one races of the Truck Series with Darrell Waltrip's #17 Toyota.
NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2008
In 2008, it was a time for NASCAR Cup Series debut with Michael Waltrip Motorsports. McDowell's first race in the #00 Toyota Camry was the Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway. That year, McDowell started in twenty Cup Series races, finishing best in 20th place at Richmond.
He also recorded two Nationwide Series starts and one Truck Series start but without notable results.
Two full seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series
In 2009, McDowell joined JTG Daugherty Racing and made a step back to the Nationwide Series, spending a full season in a series. He made 17 starts in the #47 JTG Daugherty Toyota before switching to #81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge in three races. In the second part of the season, he made 13 starts with Whitney Motorsports' Dodge. At the end of the season, he was 13th in the points with five top 10 results.
McDowell spent one more full season in the Nationwide Series, driving the #81 Dodge for MacDonald Motorsports in 2010. He was in the top 10 just once, finishing 21st in the points. In 2010, McDowell also recorded 20 starts in the Cup Series driving for Prism Motorsports and Whitney Motorsports.
Focusing on Cup Series since 2011
In 2011, NASCAR Cup Series became McDowell's main competition. He recorded 31 starts with #66 HP Racing's Toyota and one with Joe Gibbs Racing's #18 Toyota. In 2012, he spent a season with Phil Parsons Racing, driving the #98 Ford in 30 races.
In 2013, he stayed with Phil Parsons Racing. He finished ninth in the season-opening Daytona 500, what was his career-best result in the greatest NASCAR race.
Third place at Daytona 24 Hours in 2012
Since focusing his career on stock car racing, McDowell recorded few more attempts at Daytona 24 Hours. In 2007, he retired with Finlay Motorsports' Crawford and then, in 2008, he finished 15th in the #09 Spirit of Daytona Fabcar-Porsche.
He returned to Daytona in 2011 with Michael Shank Racing, driving the #6 Dallara DP01-Ford. Sharing a car with AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson, he finished in the seventh place. In January 2012, in his last attempt at Daytona 24 Hours, McDowell finally reached a podium. He, Felipe Nasr, Jorge Goncalves and Gustavo Yacaman finished third in the #6 Riley-Ford.
Four seasons with Leavine Family Racing
In 2014, McDowell continued his stock car racing career with Leavine Family Racing, joining the team to drive the #95 Ford in 22 races, failing to qualify three times. His best result in his first season with the team was seventh place at Daytona's Coke Zero 400. In 2015, McDowell recorded 16 starts and four DNQs in the #95 Ford.
In 2016, he was driving the #59 Chevrolet at Daytona 500, finishing 15th. For the rest of the season, he was back in the #95 car, finishing best in 10th place at Coke Zero 400. McDowell's last season with Leavine Family Racing was 2017, in which he made starts in all 36 races. He was again good at Daytona International, finishing 15th at Daytona 500 and fourth at Coke Zero 400.
For the 2018 Cup Series season, McDowell joined Front Row Motorsports.
Scoring maiden NASCAR victory at Road America
While racing in the Cup Series with different teams between 2011 and 2016, McDowell occasionally participated in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series. He recorded five starts in 2011, six starts in 2012 and then seven starts in 2013. He made three starts in 2014 and then skipped to race in the 2015 Xfinity Series.
He had a one-off return in 2016, driving the #2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing at Road America 180. He won that race, scoring his first and only NASCAR win in a career.