TEAM AND RACE NOTES:
Michael McDowell grew up with radio control (RC) cars and developing a love for racing. His passion for RC led to the partnership with Horizon Hobby, a global leader in RC products. McDowell will return to the No. 34 Horizon Hobby Ford this weekend at the Auto Club Speedway. This event is home to the surface product development and marketing team responsible for the first licensed NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series RC bodies in the likeness of the McDowell’s No. 34 Ford Mustang and Smith’s No. 38 Ford F-150.
The California track is a two-mile speedway with a worn and bumpy surface that produces excitement each lap. The 200-lap race has become an unpredictable event the past few years and one where teams say the “real season starts,” as it is not a superspeedway package.
Practice and qualifying will take place this Saturday beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET on FS1.
The Auto Club 400 is scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
McDowell and crew chief Travis Peterson take the No. 34 Horizon Hobby team into the Auto Club Speedway sitting 21st in points after the Daytona 500. Early in the season points are tight throughout the field and the opportunity to gain positions is now. A good finish on Sunday, McDowell can catapult the team into the top-15 or higher.
The team has been using its simulation tools to setup the Horizon Hobby Ford to travel through the bumps on the backstretch and to keep momentum through the sweeping turns.
CREW CHIEF TRAVIS PETERSON:
“The track at Fontana has become a major challenge for everyone because of the track surface. You need to have a car that can sustain speed, but also not knock the teeth out of your driver. So, the shock and spring setup is important, and we’ve been working on that in our simulation. We are heading to the track with what we think is the best setup right off the hauler.
We’ll be working with the 38 team and our other Ford teammates on Saturday during the practice and qualifying sessions, too. You can never have enough information to prepare for Sunday.
DRIVER MICHAEL MCDOWELL:
“I think the good news is that I feel we should be in the top-10 in points or better if we had the result at Daytona the car was capable of. It was fast and that gives our team a lot of confidence that we’re hitting the setups and simulation right when we get to the track.
“Now, we have a lot less time on the track this weekend to work on the car, but hopefully we can do the same and have a great setup when we arrive. We’re always at the Ford simulator and using their tools to work on a pre-race setup. And, back at the shop, we’re measuring and dialing it in. Again, we feel good that we nailed it for Daytona and we think we can do it again at California.
“What’s really cool, I think, is that we talk about the shocks and springs to get speed into our cars. Our partner, Horizon Hobby, for their surface products, they are doing the same. I grew up working on the shocks on my RC and trying to get it faster or jump higher. Setting up our Cup car and an RC from Horizon Hobby absolutely relate to each other and that is really cool. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone from Horizon Hobby this weekend and having a great race.”