The positive message Michael McDowell posted Friday night on his Twitter account was not entirely out of the ordinary. McDowell is a naturally positive individual who always enjoys getting to the racetrack, and even in his previous situations, he’s found challenges and possibilities to be excited for.
But, Watkins Glen offers a little added excitement and anticipation.
“One, it’s one of the greatest road courses we have in North America,” McDowell told RACER. “From a history standpoint, the Glen has always been a part of motorsports and major motorsports — Formula 1 to IndyCar to TransAm and sports car and obviously, NASCAR.
“For me, it’s my best opportunity to have a shot at a win. For whatever reasons over the years this has been, more so than Sonoma, a place where we are competitive and can challenge. We haven’t really put one together yet, so that’s why there is so much anticipation and hope. And it’s a great race. … It’s just a special place for me.”
In seven starts, McDowell has an average finish of 26.1 at Watkins Glen. A year ago, he finished 21st, and in 2017 McDowell earned a career-best 14th. If McDowell were to break down each race, he could probably tell you what happened to lead to those results, whether the result was good or the finish wasn’t satisfying.
Still looking to achieve a complete race here, having that dangling carrot out there, is not unfamiliar to McDowell.
“Little bit like on the Xfinity side at Road America — the first time I went there with Gibbs we sat on the pole and led majority of the race and then three green-white-checkered [finishes] later I didn’t win the race,” McDowell said. “Then come back again and qualify on the pole and have a distributor cap [issue]. So there I have had the speed and have had the shot at winning races and then to not do it every year you have something to chase.
“Here [at Watkins Glen] we’ve shown good speed, I’ve qualified in the top  almost every time I’ve come here. But always in the race, we have something — something break, strategy, something happen where we’re running 10th to 15th and not get that run where I can consistently run in the top five and challenge. And so, I feel like this could be one of those weekends where we could do that.”
If he’s able to pull it off, this weekend wouldn’t necessarily be a failure if the No. 34 group does not pull into victory lane.
“Winning is the goal, but only one person is going to do that,” McDowell said. “For me, it’s more about not making any mistakes. Being at your very best, your highest level and more than anything, being competitive. There’s lots of times where you don’t get the finish because of a pit stop of strategy or caution at the wrong time, but to me, a positive is qualifying in the top 10, racing in the top 10 and practicing in the top 10 all throughout the weekend.
“Having speed, showing speed. Being consistent and being a real contender. That’s not a long shot [here]. That’s my expectation. And by doing that, it puts you in position to win or have a top five.”
McDowell is off to a good start by finishing ninth in the opening practice session.