The important element fueling Daytona 500 winner’s success
Michael McDowell’s desire to repeat as Daytona 500 champion isn’t the only thing keeping him fueled heading into the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell has an opportunity this afternoon that no other active NASCAR Cup Series driver has: to become just the fifth driver to win the Daytona 500 in consecutive years.
McDowell avoided a last-lap wreck in last year’s running of the “Great American Race” at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona International Speedway oval in Daytona Beach, Florida. When he took the checkered flag as the race winner under caution, it was just the first lap that he had led all night.
McDowell admits that he feels the pressure of entering the Daytona 500 as the reigning winner. But at the same time, there is a sense of relief for the 37-year-old Phoenix, Arizona native. Nobody can take the “Daytona 500 winner” distinction away from him.
And that has allowed him to be a lot looser as he approaches the 64th running of the event.
“Yes. Both. You feel both, for sure,” McDowell explained to Beyond the Flag. “I definitely feel the pressure to want to come back here and repeat. But like you said, I also have been pretty loose this week just because I know what I need to do, I know what it’s going to take, I know Daytona, a lot can happen, but we’ve had a fast car and we’ve been up front all week long.
“So I feel pretty loose and feel pretty confident going into it. So yeah, both. I think that you feel the pressure because you want to repeat, but I also feel like we’ve done it before, we can do it again, and yeah, just pretty prepared.”
McDowell’s 2021 Daytona 500 win was his first win in 358 starts, the second highest start total in Cup Series history among first-time winners.
Prior to last year, the former “start and park” driver had made nine Daytona 500 starts and failed to qualify twice. The fact that his first career Cup Series win came after so many starts, going back all the way to 2008, made it that much more rewarding.
“Yeah, definitely, for sure,” he admitted. “It’s been a long grind, it’s been a hard grind for sure. For me to stay in the sport as long as I have with not a tremendous amount of opportunity throughout the years, it was difficult. And so to win and to win on our sport, NASCAR’s biggest stage, at Daytona, it was huge — and meant a lot.
“I think that the perseverance and just what it took to get there made it even more special. Not just for me either – for my family, and my kids, and our team – it’s been a fight. And so when you finally achieve what you set out to achieve, it’s very rewarding.”
But the desire to be presented with the Harley J. Earl trophy for the second straight year isn’t the only thing keeping McDowell revved up for a fifth full season with Front Row Motorsports behind the wheel of the #34 Ford.
Michael McDowell is also a CELSIUS brand ambassador, giving him the opportunity to represent a brand which he has used regularly for the last decade.
CELSIUS energy drink features healthy-energy formulas clinically proven to offer significant health benefits to its dedicated consumers and racers alike.
“Very organic partnership for me,” he explained. “I’ve been drinking CELSIUS for over 10 years now … Time goes by fast, I’d have to look at dates. I’ve been drinking it for a long time … A friend of mine, Blake Koch, who is one of my best friends, he had a partnership with them a long time ago. He got me hooked and it’s been fun to watch them grow. Their brand has taken off, and so it’s been fun to partner with them.”
Other NASCAR drivers representing CELSIUS at the Daytona 500 include RFK Racing driver/co-owner Brad Keselowski, Live Fast Motorsports driver/co-owner B.J. McLeod, and the Kaulig Racing team, which are fielding two entries for Daniel Hemric and Justin Haley.
“It was easy for me; I was already drinking the product,” McDowell said. “It’s something that has been a part of my lifestyle for a long time. I’ve actually become friends with a lot of the folks there at CELSIUS, like I said through my friend Blake Koch, who represented the brand really early on. He’s no longer in racing, but we’ve been able to have a friendship, and that friendship turned into a partnership, so it’s been fun.”
The benefits of CELSIUS haven’t been limited to the race track for McDowell. They have also affected his daily routine — even more so than his racing routine, he joked.
“Definitely,” he said. “I think that for our sport, but just life in general, mental clarity and focus and energy is a huge part of it. I was doing an interview earlier this week; I was kind of joking that I’m less worried about getting in the race car than I am about picking my kids up at 3:00 p.m. from school. I gotta have my game face on then!
“And just for me, just having a healthy lifestyle. … That’s why it’s so easy for me with CELSIUS, just clean energy, clean ingredients, a healthy drink that not only gives you energy you need but the focus. And so for me, it’s pretty easy.”
The 64th annual Daytona 500 is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET this afternoon. Can Michael McDowell repeat as its winner to get the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season underway? Start your free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss a moment of the action!