The Playoffs kicked off for the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for the sold-out Southern 500, and even though Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland found themselves outside of the playoff bubble, the teams still had plenty to work for.
Sunday night under the lights proved well for Michael McDowell and the No. 34 Fr8Auctions.com Ford Mustang as the team notched their 11th top-10 of 2022, while Todd Gilliland and the No. 38 Southeastern Equipment and Supply team fired off strong but struggle with grip late for a 28th place finish.
After qualifying in the 31st position to start Sunday’s 500-mile event, Todd Gilliland and the No.38 Southeastern Equipment and Supply team had their work cut out for them but quickly made up positions early.
Racing as high as 20th at one point, Gilliland felt the car start slipping away as the sun set at the ‘Lady in Black’. The No.38 started losing rear grip as the run went on, making the car loose through the center and exit of the corners. Late in the race, Gilliland got loose and hit the wall, breaking a toe link in the right rear forcing him down pit road. The repairs took several laps and ultimately, Gilliland could not recover and would finish in 28th a number of laps down.
“It’s unfortunate because I felt that we fired off really strong in the beginning,” said Gilliland. “Once we got in the wall and had to pit to repair the damage, we could never really get our laps back. We will have some things to look at that will hopefully make us better next time, now we are on to Kansas.”
Michael McDowell and the No. 34 Fr8Auctions.com team brought home a career-best 11th top-10 finish on Sunday night at Darlington Raceway.
Dropping as low as 15th during the 500-mile race, McDowell raced inside the top-10 all evening long, collecting stage points in stage two. With the laps winding down, a few late race cautions allowed the No. 34 team to come down pit road for fresh tires to gain valuable track position en route to a sixth-place finish.
“We had a really fast FR8 Auctions Ford Mustang,” said McDowell. We were really good on the long run, but honestly we just needed to execute a little bit better on pit road. We just lost a few spots each time and then had to pass those cars back and lose a little bit of momentum, but Darlington is a tough place. Running 500 miles here is just tough and to run as competitive as we did all night and run up front I’m really proud of the effort, but I’m not surprised, either. We’ve had speed. We’ve been fast. We’ve had a lot of top 10s this year. That was probably one of our better performances on what I would call a mile-and-a-half style racetrack, so we’re making good gains. Everything is good and in a positive direction, so I’m thankful to get out of here. We had a couple close calls like you would image in a 500-mile race, but I’m proud of the effort.”
FRM will race this weekend with both the NASCAR Trucks and Cup Series at Kansas Speedway.