Michael McDowell joined forces with his sponsor, Thrivent Financial, to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis and lend a hand to help a local homeowner.
With qualifying canceled, the two drivers sidelined for second straight weekend SPARTA, Ky. -- With rain creating havoc for the on-track activity at Kentucky Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage has been kept largely on lockdown for three straight days. The weather deck, however, was stacked even more severely against three unfortunate teams who will miss the race because of a qualifying washout. RELATED: Lineup for Saturday's race Part-time teams Wood Brothers Racing (with driver Ryan Blaney ) and Leavine Family Racing ( Michael McDowell ) were sidelined for the second straight weekend after Coors Light Pole Qualifying was canceled by wet weather. The Curtis Key-owned Motorsports Group with driver Travis Kvapil also headed home after the starting lineup for Saturday night's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) was determined according to the NASCAR Rule Book. NASCAR officials, faced with a third consecutive day of weather-related challenges, opted to cancel qualifying in an effort to provide teams with more practice time ahead of Saturday night's event, the first for a new, low-downforce rules package. Hopes for that practice were dwindling Friday afternoon because of persistent sprinkles at the 1.5-mile track, but cars finally staged for the session at 4:25 p.m. ET. For longtime team co-owner Eddie Wood, he was left to shrug and say, "the rules are the rules." The Wood Brothers No. 21 had made six previous Sprint Cup Series starts with Blaney at the wheel before the two early exits -- at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, and now here in Kentucky. "A lot of times people get it confused with how it works, but we've gone a long time and not missed a race with weather," Wood said. "Missing races, if you're slow and you miss a race because you're not fast enough, is a bad deal. That just kills your soul, but you can't do anything about the weather. We've been really lucky for the past seven years and haven't missed one, but now the numbers seem to be leveling out. I've always heard that numbers always level out and that's kind of what's going on." Rain has plagued every day at Kentucky since Sprint Cup teams arrived for the expanded race weekend. An extended Wednesday practice and its rescheduled make-up session Thursday were washed out, and Sprint Cup teams only completed 50 minutes of opening practice Friday before a heavy shower throttled the speedway. Both Blaney and McDowell tweeted their exasperation before their team haulers headed for the infield tunnel, just before the start of final practice. Wood said the team planned to enter next weekend's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, hoping that Mother Nature would look kindly on stock-car racing and their team for a change. We can't control the weather, circumstances or road blocks but we have 100% control of our own attitudes. #MakeAchoice — Michael McDowell (@Mc_Driver) July 10, 2015 Mother Nature is playing with my emotions. — Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) July 10, 2015 "We're gonna run next week at Loudon, so we'll head up that way and hope we don't get rained out," Wood said. "I'm gonna stop looking at weather apps, I tell you that. I'm done as far as that is concerned." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
In the painful initial minutes after hearing Monday night's news that his good friend and former teammate Justin Wilson had died of injuries suffered in an IndyCar Series racing accident, NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger shared his raw and emotional reaction on social media . "Life isn't fair. We lost one of the great ones today.'' Allmendinger said on Twitter. He accompanied his tribute with a wonderfully telling old photo of himself -- at 5-feet, 6-inches -- standing on a racing tire alongside a smiling 6-foot-4 Wilson. It was so appropriate because Wilson, 37, was a person that Allmendinger -- and so many others -- looked up to figuratively, literally, on-track and off. "Justin was such a quiet guy, and the general public probably doesn't know much about him, so I want to let them know he was such an amazing person,'' Allmendinger said. "I want people to know he was a badass race car driver that, I felt, never got the credit he deserved. But the most important thing is as good as he was on the race track, he was so much better off it." "I truly looked up to him,'' Allmendinger added, acknowledging the pun. While the quiet Brit may not be a super familiar personality to many NASCAR fans, there are plenty of stock car connections to Wilson. Sprint Cup drivers Danica Patrick and Allmendinger competed alongside Wilson in Champ Car and later the IndyCar Series, where Wilson was a seven-time winner. RELATED: Drivers mourn the loss of Justin Wilson Cup driver Michael McDowell and former Cup racer Marcos Ambrose teamed with Wilson in Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car races as did former Camping World Truck Series competitor Max Papis , who also raced against Wilson in the open-wheel ranks. Allmendinger shared a seat with Wilson in five Rolex 24 races, and they were teammates as the long-shot small team Michael Shank Racing won the 50th anniversary edition of the Rolex 24. Wilson finished runner-up in Daytona's 24-hour race in 2010 driving for Cup owner Chip Ganassi. Of course, you didn't have to have know Wilson to appreciate the kind of racer and the kind of person he was. That's evident in the racing community with all the supportive social media tributes and well wishes sent by NASCAR drivers past and present many who never even met Wilson. In the hours immediately after Sunday's accident, three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart sent his plane to transport Wilson's younger brother Stefan to be at his brother's side in the hospital. RELATED: Stewart lends support to Wilson's family In many ways, Wilson's racing career -- and the way he went about it -- spoke much more loudly than the reserved Wilson ever needed to. Allmendinger recalls that he and Wilson were rookies together in Champ Car, except that Wilson was four years older than the young Californian at the time and fresh off a season in Formula One. "I was intimidated by him,'' Allmendinger said. "This guy was badass. It messed me up because I was so intimidated by it that all I wanted to do was beat him, because I knew if I beat him I was doing something pretty special." And Allmendinger considers his first major race win (2006 at Portland, Ore.) all the more special because it came after an intense duel with Wilson. "Here he had just finished second place and yet he was the first to come into Victory Lane and hug me,'' Allmendinger said. "It happened to come down to me and him battling for the win. I had just beat him and as I'm getting out of the car, he runs up and hugs me. That's the type of guy he was.'' It's a recurring theme when people speak of Wilson. He was one of those rare and exceptional individuals whom you never heard a harsh word spoken about. He was well respected as a person and a competitor, the latter sometimes under-appreciated. Despite the impressive resume Wilson brought to America, he mostly drove for underfunded, smaller teams. But he succeeded against the odds and always provided the underdog a legitimate shot. His win in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway came for the small Dale Coyne Racing team. And just a few weeks ago -- in the midst of a part-time ride with Andretti Autosport with little to no testing in the cars -- he finished runner-up to Graham Rahal at Mid-Ohio. It was vintage Wilson. "He was a guy that never got a great opportunity especially late in his career, I always hoped Penske or Ganassi would pick him up,'' Allmendinger reflected Tuesday. "He was one of the best out there. But you know what, he always made the most out of it and never complained about it." I was always struck by what a strong family man he was -- a doting husband, devoted dad to his two girls and a proud big brother to Stefan, a promising young racer in his own right. "Justin was so good and always made me want to be at my best because I respect him so much,'' Allmendinger said. "He always made sure you were happy, you were OK. Always pumped me up. It drove me to be the best I could." And now Allmendinger and so many others in the racing community will honor their friend by doing the same for Wilson's family.
IndyCar racer dies at age 37 following wreck RELATED: Stewart lends support to Wilson's family IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died Monday evening from head injuries sustained Sunday during a race at Pocono Raceway . He was 37. During Sunday's race, Wilson appeared to be struck in the head by debris from a late-race crash involving Sage Karam in the first turn at the 2.5-mile track. The Andretti Autosport driver's car then veered left off the racing surface, where it bounced off the inside wall. Wilson was part of the winning team for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012 with fellow drivers AJ Allmendinger , Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew while competing for Michael Shank Racing. He had 17 career starts in GRAND-AM/ALMS/IMSA events. NASCAR drivers and others in the industry took to Twitter to share condolences with Wilson's family and to post remembrances of a fellow racer. Ur my boy forever. Love you @justin_wilson . One of the best ever. On and off the track. pic.twitter.com/kDZxxfj0jN — AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015 Life isn't fair sometimes. We lost one of the great ones today. One of the best ever. I know ur up there being a Wheelman JW. Ur amazing!!! — AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015 Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and to the @IndyCar family. #RIPJustinWilson — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 25, 2015 So sad to hear that we lost Justin Wilson today. Thoughts & prayers to his family and friends. — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) August 25, 2015 Very sad to hear the news of Justin Wilson's passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) August 25, 2015 Didn't know Justin but I did know he was a unbeliever person and a great car driver. So sad.. #RIPJustinWilson pic.twitter.com/YI6HdSaCYz — Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) August 25, 2015 Terrible and tragic news. Prayers to his family and friends. We are all family. #RIPJustin — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) August 25, 2015 Wow. Heart is torn for the Wilson Family. Prayers to all. — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) August 25, 2015 Thankful to have known @justin_wilson & honored to have shared a seat with him. He was a Great Man and will be missed pic .twitter.com/vgRS4iEzsm — Michael McDowell (@Mc_Driver) August 25, 2015 Wow, what a sad day. @justin_wilson was a good man. A great man. I had the pleasure of knowing him and pray for his family. — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) August 25, 2015 My heart breaks for Justin's family and friends. https://t.co/QpJldzyc2n — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 25, 2015 A trust fund has been created for Wilson's children. Donations may be sent to the address below. Wilson Children's Fund C/O INDYCAR 4551 West 16th Street Indianapolis, IN 46222 pic.twitter.com/lIiFGnL78y — Max Papis (@maxpapis) August 25, 2015
Organization to utilize Team Penske alliance in 2015 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Leavine Family Racing team owner Bob Leavine recalls when he signed his driver Michael McDowell with a fondness that stems from respect on and off the track. "We interviewed four drivers and I had seen Michael in the garage,” Levine said during Charlotte Media Tour on Wednesday. “The time he took with fans was in line with our family values, the way he treated people. “A good driver, and he wasn't driving the best cars in the world. I knew that we didn't have many, but what we were putting on the track was good. So I just thought that it would be a good fit from what we were trying to accomplish." Fast forward a year and the small family-owned Sprint Cup Series team is headed in a direction that both the driver and team are excited about. McDowell , 29, is expected to run a minimum of 20 Sprint Cup Series races in 2015, trumping last year’s number. Last season, he qualified for all but three Cup events that he attempted, nabbing notable finishes at Daytona (seventh) and Bristol (18th), a victory that McDowell said he would have celebrated by popping champagne at his hauler if any had been available. “The thing about that (Bristol) race for us is we ran where we finished most of the day,” McDowell said with a smile. “For a small Sprint Cup team to be in the teens and the low 20s, that’s a great day for us. “For us, to run where we’ve run all night and to finish it off was definitely a confidence builder and momentum for us.” The No. 95 driver appears to be sticking with the big boys for now, despite his strong finishes in the few races run with XFINITY Series in 2014. “I love running in the XFINITY Series. I’ve had a lot of great runs in the last few years,” McDowell said. “… I hope that I’ll have a few opportunities again to run some races, but there’s nothing permanent on the schedule right now. But having a part-time schedule in the Sprint Cup Series gives me a little bit of flexibility. “Now with a tighter alliance with Team Penske and a tighter alliance with Ford, it’s eliminated some of the opportunities with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and those things.” This season marks the second season of the organization’s technical alliance with Team Penske , a partnership that Leavine thinks will aid the 14-person team on improving from last season. “It’s just a different mindset,” Leavine said. “… Roger (Penske) wasn’t willing to accept anything less than perfect. And that’s contagious." The fever seems to have spread to the organization's shop in Concord, North Carolina, as Leavine describes the team’s readiness to improve and be even more competitive next season. And that’s just what McDowell plans to do. “We want to be in the mix and we want to be in the conversation and we feel like at the end of the year last year, we were getting to that point,” McDowell said. “But we’d just like to be able to do that more consistently. And that’s the focus this year. "You can’t always hit home runs, but if we could hit doubles every game and eventually we’re going to get a few home runs in there and that’s really what we’re focused on.” FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Opportunity to run in the No. 22 comes within heated owner race RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today SPARTA, Ky. -- The last time Michael McDowell was in a NASCAR Nationwide Series ride, he was driving the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing at Iowa Speedway earlier this season. He battled Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Team Penske ride throughout the final laps, settling for second while Keselowski celebrated in Victory Lane. This weekend at Kentucky Speedway , McDowell will be in that No. 22 for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 as he continues to hunt down his first Nationwide victory. Aside from his own aspirations of a win, McDowell's job is also to keep owner Roger Penske atop the owner standings -- the weight of which won't keep the driver down. "I've been in these sort of high-pressure situations in the past with Joe Gibbs Racing going in over the years," McDowell said. "There's a lot at stake, I realize that, and obviously this is a car that's won four races already this year and runs up front every week. And so the pressure for me is just, I really just take every week the same, I go out there and do the best I can and try to get the most out of the race car that I can, and hopefully the results will come from that." With two top-10 finishes in two Nationwide Series starts this season, McDowell has had a welcome respite from finishing outside of the top 20 as so often happens in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride. McDowell has competed in 13 races in the top national series and earned only two top-20s. In three races, his No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford did not qualify. Racing for a small team has presented its challenges, but competing for top teams in Nationwide has kept them from getting to the driver. "(I've) sort of struggled and had to do a lot of things that you wouldn't think would be ideal in a career: ... not have well-funded programs in both the Nationwide and Cup sides," McDowell said. "And it just made me realize, OK, this is why I stuck in it, and this is why I continue to do what I'm doing -- is for an opportunity like this to drive a great race car for a great organization and hopefully get a shot at Victory Lane, you know, it makes it all worth it for sure." His opportunities with Penske and Gibbs have been beneficial to the small, single-car organization where McDowell spends most of his time. While Leavine Family Racing continues to battle limited funds and a smaller staff than teams like Penske, who provides its equipment, having the chance to be a part of a winning team brings LFR closer to doing so itself. "The opportunities that I've had over the last three or four years in the Nationwide Series, I feel like is what's really kept me in this sport, because I got great opportunities to hop in and get top-fives and a couple of runner-up finishes, and it kind of makes you relative in this sport," McDowell said. "But more than anything for me was, it wasn't so much a confidence boost as it was, 'OK, this is what it needs to feel like, this is where we have to get,' and it allowed me to go back to my Cup programs a little more focused on, 'OK, here's the areas we do well, here's the areas where they do it better.' And that's really helped me be able to bring more to the Cup program." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Before the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM), the NASCAR Sprint Cup pilots came out during driver introductions to songs they chose. Check out the list below in the order they were introduced, starting with last-place qualifier Mike Bliss and ending with Coors Light Pole Award winner Denny Hamlin . 43rd place) Mike Bliss - "Hells Bells" by AC/DC 42nd place) Matt DiBenedetto - "I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett 41st place) Timmy Hill - "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silento 40th place) Tony Stewart - "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple 39th place) Landon Cassill - "Smooth" by Santana 38th place) J.J. Yeley - "Devil in Disguise" by Elvis Presley 37th place) David Gilliland - Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue 36th place) Alex Bowman - "Bring Me The Horizon" by Throne 35th place) Michael Annett - "Bernie Lean" by Bernie Dance 34th place) Josh Wise - "Dixieland Delight" by Alabama 33rd place) Cole Whitt - "Armor For The Lord" by Blake Whiteley 32nd place) Danica Patrick - "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner 31st place) Aric Almirola - "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar 30th place Michael McDowell "Nothing I Can't Do" by Tedashii 29th place) Paul Menard - "Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth 28th place Casey Mears "Fuel" by Metallica 27th place) Brett Moffitt - "Cowboy" by Kid Rock 26th place) Sam Hornish Jr . - "Touch of Grey" by Grateful Dead 25th place) AJ Allmendinger - "Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson 24th place) Jeff Gordon - "E.I." by Nelly 23rd place) Martin Truex Jr . - "La Grange" by ZZ Top 22nd place) Trevor Bayne - "Back Where I Come From" by Kenny Chesney 21st place) Jamie McMurray - "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith 20th place) Dale Earnhardt Jr . - "Eminence Front" by The Who 19th place) Kasey Kahne - "Cherry Bomb" by John Mellencamp 18th place) Ryan Newman - "Good Ol' Boys" by Waylon Jennings 17th place) Greg Biffle - "Wild Side" by Motley Crue 16th place) Austin Dillon - "Move" by Ludacris 15th place) Ryan Blaney - "Even Flow" by Pearl Jam 14th place) Justin Allgaier - "Ready Set Roll" by Chase Rice 13th place) Matt Kenseth - "Stife" by Trivium 12th place) Kyle Larson - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" by Elton John 11th place) Kurt Busch - "Party Up (Up In Here)" by DMX 10th place) Jimmie Johnson - "Renegades" by X Ambassadors 9th place) Clint Bowyer - "Going Through the Big D" by Mark Chesnutt 8th place) Ricky Stenhouse Jr . - "The Stroke" by Billy Squier 7th place) Kevin Harvick - "Real Life" by Jake Owen 6th place) Brad Keselowski - "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg 5th place) Joey Logano - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by Dropkick Murphys 4th place) David Ragan - "Only In America" by Brooks and Dunn 3rd place) Carl Edwards - "Juke Box Hero" by Foreigner 2nd place) Kyle Busch - DJ Barry 1st place) Denny Hamlin - "Heart Upon My Sleeve" by Avicii
Hornish will drive the No. 54 for JGR, McDowell the No. 22 for Penske
Michael McDowell says his second place finish was bittersweet because he was so close to a win, while Sam Hornish Jr. was happy with his car, but disappointed with the results.
Michael McDowell doesn't give Marcos Ambrose an inch and sends him spinning into the wall.