Michael McDowell on joining Spire: 'You're never guaranteed tomorrow'

Michael McDowell on joining Spire: 'You're never guaranteed tomorrow'

CONCORD, N.C. — Michael McDowell, the 2021 Daytona 500 champion, and Spire Motorsports President Doug Duchardt were at the NASCAR Productions Facility on Thursday and addressed the media after Wednesday’s announcement that McDowell will join Spire as a full-time driver starting in 2025.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to continue to build and be in the Cup Series for many years to come,” McDowell said to the group gathered in a conference room.

The “years to come” part was a key factor in why McDowell chose to sign with an organization building up its Cup program and aiming to compete against prominent teams for race wins and playoff spots more often.

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Although leaving Front Row Motorsports — a team he has been paired with for seven seasons — was a challenging decision, McDowell, 39, wanted more security in a full-time ride in the future.

“It wasn’t easy,” McDowell said. “I mean, I love everybody at Front Row. I feel like it’s family. So making any decision like this wasn’t easy. But I think I came to the realization when I felt like I poured everything into this program that I’m currently in, and there wasn’t anything beyond the year in front of me. So at that point, I had to make a tough decision that I’m not going to chance it, I’m going to go ahead and do the hard thing and move on.”

McDowell, who has been in the sport since 2008, knows how unforgiving the stock-car business can be.

“Conversations are always happening in our sport,” McDowell said. “Motorsports is tough, and you’re never guaranteed tomorrow. So you’re always paying attention to what’s happening in the industry and where the moving and shaking is happening and if there’s opportunity.”

Duchardt said McDowell’s track record of elevating the performance of smaller organizations was a key factor in targeting him for the No. 71 Chevrolet. Plus, with a stable of young drivers in its Truck Series program and a rising rookie in Carson Hocevar — in addition to Corey LaJoie — at the Cup level, Duchardt said McDowell would not only push the team forward on track but also be a figure for the young drivers to lean on as they continue to develop in NASCAR’s national series.

“The driver of a race team is a leader,” Duchardt said. “[They] drive the tone. [They] drive the narrative. [The team] feeds off of [their] energy. [The team] feeds off how you’re doing. [The team’s] eyes are on the driver, the moment they come in the back of that truck for that weekend. I think that that’s one of Michael’s strengths. In how he sets the tone, how he sets that energy and how he sets that narrative. And for our group, as we grow, it’s imperative to me that we run as one three-car team.”

While the two parties are excited about their new partnership for next season, McDowell said he is still committed to finishing the year strong with Front Row, and Duchardt said Spire will continue to help the development of driver Zane Smith this season.

The Cup Series makes its next stop Sunday at Darlington Raceway for the Goodyear 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).