Monday, July 8, 2024

White Sox Find Success in NASCAR as McDowell Earns Top-5 Finish in Chicago Street Race

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When Michael McDowell rolled off the grid onto the streets of Chicago in his White Sox-themed Ford Mustang on Sunday, it marked the highest position the White Sox have been in all season. 

The White Sox are last in the AL Central Standings, last in the AL Wild Car race, and own the worst record in the MLB. Ironically McDowell marked the organization’s best chance to win a big event with this season. The 39-year-old driver had qualified third in a 40-car field for NASCAR’s second-ever Chicago Street race, a marquee event that drew millions of viewers last season. 

The White Sox were also represented in last year’s race, but much like the baseball team the car, driven by Ty Dillon, finished near the back of the field. This time around things were different. The White Sox announced they were partnering with Front Row Motorsports in May to sponsor McDowell’s No. 34 Ford Mustang.

“Our marketing guys were working hard on it. I think the White Sox were involved last year with Spire,” Front Row Motorsports GM told Sports Mockery in June. “A connection was made and I think there were some companies affiliated with the White Sox that were wanting to be a part of the Chicago event and continue that on into this year.” 

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If the goal for the White Sox was to bring in more eyeballs they picked a good driver to partner with. McDowell is a former Daytona 500 winner who also won a road course race at Indianapolis Motorspeedway last season to qualify for the playoffs. He is considered one of the better road course racers in the Cup Series and put it on full display when he ripped off an 87.862-second lap on a very tight and technical course through the streets of downtown, just 0.026 off the pole position. 

It was not the first time the White Sox organization had been represented by McDowell. He drove a Charlotte Knights-themed car on May 19th for the NASCAR All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. But the White Sox partnership nearly didn’t happen. 

“We had that race [Chicago] open, we had actually had a sponsorship that had come unraveled late in the game that freed up a marquee race like Chicago so we were thankful that the White Sox and their group were looking to make a big splash for that race,” Freeze explained. “What’s crazy is we didn’t have a sponsor for the All-Star race and so our guys were kinda working on one of their affiliate teams with the Charlotte Knights and kind of going down the same path of working with the foundation with them and put together another package around the All-Star race.” 

When the green flag waved on Sunday, McDowell got off to a rough start. He lost five spots before pitting for wet weather tires on lap eight which put him a lap down. He was able to get back onto the lead lap on lap 22 and methodically began making up spots in the wet and rainy conditions. By the end of stage 2, he was in 27th place. Despite a lengthy rain delay that shortened the race McDowell managed to pilot the White Sox car back inside the top-10 for a fifth-place finish.

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