For the second consecutive weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series raced on the west coast. Teams competed for the first time this season at the Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway. It was the fourth race of the season and featured the fourth different winner.
Sunday, it was Martin Truex Jr. joining Front Row Motorsports (FRM) driver Michael McDowell on the winner’s list in 2021. He passed Joey Logano who finished second. Denny Hamlin finished third and was followed by Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. The race was televised live nationally on FOX.
McDowell, in his homecoming race as the Daytona 500 Champion, finished 23rd and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Anthony Alfredo had a 37th-place result after being wrecked early in the race.
After spending all week in his hometown celebrating his Daytona 500 win with family and friends, McDowell went back to work on Sunday. He and the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops team were back doing what they do best- overcoming adversity to come home with a 23rd-place finish.
McDowell was strong early in Sunday’s 312-race. He started 16th, and was 17th after running as high as 15th in the opening laps before a Competition Caution on Lap 30. McDowell said the car was tight and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer wanted to use Stage 1 to work on the Love’s Travel Stops Mustang. McDowell ended the Stage 21st.
Blickensderfer, the engineers, team and pit crew continued to make adjustments during the second Stage.
McDowell raced hard as the track continued to change. McDowell slid back, but the team was getting the car better for the final Stage. The team was 26th at the end of Stage 2 and more adjustments were made to get McDowell more grip.
McDowell did a long fuel run in the final stage and it paid off for him when a caution came out allowing him to pit under the yellow. The Love’s Travel Stops team was up to 23rd, back on the Lead Lap and poised to gain more positions and points.
NASCAR called McDowell for a pit road speeding penalty late in the race. That forced the No. 34 team to start in the back of the pack in the closing laps. McDowell had his best driving performance as the race came to a close and rebounded back to 23rd.
McDowell and the team are fifth in the NASCAR Playoff standings.
MICHAEL MCDOWELL. NO. 34 LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS FORD MUSTANG. FINISHED 23“This team fights. We worked on the car all race. We never stopped trying to find that speed. Drew made a good call on strategy and that gained us a lot of positions and track position. We had to overcome the penalty late, but we got back to where we were.
“We go to Atlanta, a huge weekend for us and Fr8 Auctions. So, we study this race and get focused on Atlanta.”
Alfredo had his race come to abrupt end after being wrecked after only 87 laps in Sunday’s race. Alfredo was spun from behind and then pushed into the wall. The damage was severe to the No. 38 MDS Trucking Ford- ending the team’s race.
Alfredo was working hard after sustaining damage during Stage 1. Alfredo knew that the car was affected by the damage, but was making competitive laps and wanted to make the most of the day with the team.
They were never given the chance.
ANTHONY ALFREDO. NO. 38 MDS TRUCKING FORD MUSTANG. FINISHED 37“It’s disappointing to get destroyed like that for no reason. We had damage and we were just trying to make the best of our day. We had a long way to go in the race. It’s hard to get taken out like that. I feel bad for our team and our partners. We will get ready for Atlanta.”