Michael McDowell Told Dale Earnhardt Jr. He Was “Willing To Die” While Racing For The Win At Talladega

Michael McDowell Talladega NASCAR

For the love of the game…

Of course it’s a little different when that game is racing a 3,500 lb. race car around a 2.5 mile track at 190+ miles an hour, where one wrong move could literally mean the difference between life and death.

But according to Michael McDowell, it was a chance he was willing to take to win the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega this past weekend.

McDowell drives for the smaller Front Row Motorsports team, which obviously means they don’t have as many resources as the bigger teams like Hendrick and Joe Gibbs. And that means fewer opportunities to win races, and fewer opportunities to lock themselves into the playoffs and race for a championship.

But superspeedway tracks like Talladega and Daytona always even the playing field and present an opportunity for teams that may not be able to run up front every race to go out and steal a win from the big guys.

McDowell knows this all too well: His first NASCAR Cup Series win of his 17-year career came in the Daytona 500 back in 2012.

So when the driver of the #34 car found himself up front in the Geico 500 this past weekend with a chance to win the race and lock his team into the playoffs, he was willing to do whatever it took.

McDowell was fighting hard for the win coming to the checkered flag, and doing his best to hold off a hard-charging Brad Keselowski at a track where momentum is everything and can win or lose you the race. Break Brad’s momentum, and McDowell’s in Victory Lane. Let him get a run and get past you, and it’s just another missed opportunity.

That was the decision McDowell was faced with in the final stretch. And he decided he was going to do whatever it took to try to win the race, throwing some massive blocks on Brad in the #6 car coming to the finish line.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out for McDowell, who got turned while trying to block and set off a massive crash as the field took the checkered flag, allowing Tyler Reddick to sneak through for the win after avoiding the carnage.

But McDowell said that in the moment, all he cared about was winning the race – and not whether he lived or died.

On an episode of his Dale Jr. Download podcast this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed the conversation that he had with McDowell in the school pickup line in the days after the race. And McDowell told him just how bad he wanted to win:

“He said, ‘Man I had to.’ He’s like, ‘I was willing to die.’

And I’m like, ‘Willing to die?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, I was willing to die the last 15 laps.”

And McDowell explained why it meant so much to him in that moment:

“He’s like, ‘Look at my position in points. It’s the only way I’m going to get in the playoffs. I’ve got to do everything I can. That was my moment. And I’m willing to risk the crash and whatever the end result may be…’

He knew with 15 laps to go that he was going to make that bet. All the chips are in. Whatever happens, happens.”

Drivers always say that it’s “checkers or wreckers.” And McDowell was even willing to go a step farther: For him, it was “checkers or stretcher.”

@dirtymomedia_Dale Earnhardt Jr. caught up with Michael McDowell in the school pickup line and had a chat about his blocks. 🍎 “He’s like, ‘I was willing to die.'”

♬ original sound – Dirty Mo Media

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A beer bottle on a dock