Michael McDowell, 38-year-old race car driver for team Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series, won his first race of the 2023 season today in Indianapolis at the Verizon 200 At The Brickyard, clinching himself a berth in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. This weekend marked the third time the NASCAR Cup Series has raced on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
After earning his second career win and gifting his team Front Row Motorsports its fourth Cup win, McDowell celebrated with his wife and kids by kissing the bricks at the Brickyard. A tradition held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that all drivers dream of. This was the first time McDowell’s family had witnessed him winning a race in person.
The Indianapolis race track challenged drivers with a difficult right-hand turn 1, followed by 13 other turns throughout the circuit. The new restart zone on the Indianapolis track was intended to thin the field out before drivers continue onto turn 1. In total, the track is a 2.439-mile road course equalling roughly a 200-mile race.
The No. 9 car of Chase Elliot put up a fight for the first place position and took second place for him and his team, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott finished in second place by .937 seconds, and today was his sixth time placing in the top 5 so far this season. Elliot, with the second-place finish, could not clinch a playoff spot but earned enough points to keep him in the hunt.
Stage 1 of the race had No. 99 car Daniel Suarez in pole position. He earned his first front-row start of the season by having the fastest time in this weekend’s qualifying. Right next to him starting second on the grid was the No. 45 car Tyler Reddick, who finished the race fourth for his team, 23XI Racing.
McDowell, who started the race in fourth place, dominated the race winning Stage 1 and leading 54 of the 82 laps of the road course.
Stage 2 was won out by the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin, who started today’s race in 25th, led for eight laps, but finished in 19th.
Third-place winner Suarez had a strong start to Stage 1 of today’s race. Suarez, who started in pole, ended up short of the win after a prolonged pit stop. The pit stop played a role in why Suarez did not kiss the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s main straight this weekend. The third-place finish also currently positions Suarez in the standings just outside the top 16 cut for playoffs.
The No. 48 car of Alex Bowman overtook four places to finish 5th after starting 9th, gaining some solid points and keeping himself in the hunt for the playoffs.
Bowman’s team Hendrick Motorsport had a successful weekend, with 3 out of 4 drivers in the top 10. Chase Briscoe, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, and Shane van Gisbergen rounded out the top 10, showing promise for the important qualifying races to come.
With just two more races left before playoffs start, drivers will be giving their all to try and snag one of the remaining three playoff spots currently held by drivers without wins, including Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace.
Next weekend’s race on August 20th, Go Bowling At The Glen, will be held in Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, New York, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.