CONCORD, N.C. – Michael McDowell’s day didn’t start off very well Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
McDowell found himself in a great deal of pain prior to Friday’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. The pain was so bad, in fact, that he ended up at the hospital.
“I’m really thankful I feel as good as I do,” McDowell said. “I felt like this morning I was very close to death. Now this afternoon I feel pretty good. Unfortunate, but I’m thankful I’m at home in Charlotte and thankful I was able to get to a place where I feel pretty good.”
McDowell said he initially had no idea what was wrong with him before he was finally diagnosed with and passed a kidney stone.
“I had no idea, that was the problem,” McDowell said. “I was hurting and in pain and not feeling well and nauseous and throwing up. But what it was was just a kidney stone and fortunately I was able to pass a kidney stone and immediately felt 85 percent better. But getting up to that process was close to death.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Austin Cindric practiced McDowell’s car Friday afternoon. McDowell returned to the track and was able to qualify his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford 22nd for Sunday’s race.
– Ryan Blaney is the defending winner of the Bank of America ROVAL 400, a fact that hasn’t been lost on him in the lead up to Sunday’s race.
“Coming back here, it’s nice coming back to a place you’ve won at no matter how you do it,” Blaney said. “Honestly, I was kind of more excited to come back here to see the new chicane. I think that was pretty unique, a lot different from what we had last year. We’re actually talking about adding more braking markers because there are only six of them and we’re braking at like the hypothetical seven, so I think we’re gonna add a couple more.
“But yeah, it’s nice to come back. That’s kind of all I’ve heard this week was last winner and I don’t really think about that stuff too much. I kind of think about the next one coming up.”
– Kyle Larson, who led the most laps in last year’s inaugural race on the ROVAL, qualified seventh and expressed confidence that his No. 42 team was capable of competing for a win Sunday.
“I’m pretty confident,” Larson said. “We led the most laps here last year and had the best shot to win until we all drove into the wall. If it’s going to be like last year, I’m definitely confident.”
– Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush was asked during a press conference whether he’d ever consider fielding an Indy car team.
“I believe first and foremost that race cars have doors,” Roush said.
He would go on to say that Indy car racing lacked the manufacturer identity that NASCAR has with its race cars, making it less appealing to him when compared to his NASCAR program.
“If you don’t have the prospect of tying a manufacturer to the prospect of winning on Sunday and selling on Monday, you’ve really missed an opportunity to market what you’re doing with the race car that’s hard to overcome,” Roush said. “I’ve never felt diminished nor have I missed anything by not racing Indy cars or open-wheel cars. I drag raced full-bodied cars. I road raced full-bodied cars, and I look forward to racing my stock cars for a long time to come.”
– After sharing his displeasure with Austin Dillon over his team radio last week at Richmond Raceway after Dillon spun him out, Alex Bowman doubled down on his displeasure with the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet Friday afternoon.
“I was obviously frustrated with that situation but I think it hurt his day more than it hurt mine,” Bowman said. “We kind of ran where we were going to run anyway. It’s just frustrating. I got ran all the way to the inside wall down the front straightaway and then just turned. It is what it is.
Bowman noted he wasn’t remotely concerned about dealing with Dillon during Sunday’s race, saying, “You typically don’t see him at these places anyway.”
– Martin Truex Jr. is one of only a few active drivers in the NASCAR garage area to have raced with the late Mike Stefanik, who died in a plane crash on Sept. 15.
Truex remembered the late NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Friday.
“Just his success over the years and how long he went winning races and championships was amazing,” Truex said. “I can remember watching him as a kid. Growing up, watching my dad race and then moving up through the ranks and getting to race with guys like Mike (Stefanik). Just an awesome competitor. A true champion, a great guy off the race track. Obviously a tough thing for especially the Modified guys, just the Northeast racing scene in general. He was a hero up there. Pretty tragic how it all happened. We were all thinking about his family.”
– Several NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers had issues during Friday’s first day of practice. Michael Annett, Noah Gragson, Cody Ware and Preston Pardus all crashed at different points during the two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions.
The incidents weren’t limited to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with Denny Hamlin and Parker Kligerman both finding the wall in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. Hamlin’s crash was bad enough to require a backup car.
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