NASCAR Transcripts: Michael McDowell, Tyler Reddick & Joey Hand – 7.7.24

THE MODERATOR: We’ll now be joined by Michael McDowell. Michael came home in fifth place today.

Q. Your team brought you in early before the rain and then it took a while for it to rain and you were kind of dropping at that point. What was that like being on rain tires while the track was still too dry to take advantage of that, and how did it swing your way in the second half?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: Yeah, it was really bad. It buried us. We ended up losing a lap. So that just put us behind. We were in the top 5, and when we did that, we just got so far behind.

I understand the call and going for it because on the radar there was rain right there, so usually if you’re the first to put the rain tires on before the rain hits, you’re going to end up leading. So yeah, it was just an aggressive move that didn’t pay off.

But fortunately we were able to get in position to wave around and then the rain came and we restarted 32nd there after the rain delay.

To get the top 5 is great. It’s a good recovery. But it’s not what we needed today. We needed a win. But we had the speed, and we just didn’t have enough laps today to get back through the field quick enough with all the cautions and single-file restarts. It makes it really hard, so it was hard to recover once we were that far back.

Q. Without that call, do you feel like possibly you could have won?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: You never know, though, because when you’re up front, everything changes. I could have got wiped out by Larson when he locked up or anything like that. Unfortunately you don’t get to hit the rewind, but that is where our race went the wrong direction for us for sure.

Q. Michael, the time element of this and having a time limit, you’ve come from sports car racing, you’re no stranger to that, but what was your perception of how that played out in today’s race?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: Well, I think the good thing about it was at least we all sort of knew what the process and procedure was this time, where last time that was what took us out of having a shot at winning the race because we pitted and then they shortened the race and all the guys that didn’t pit kept the track position and made it to the end.

At least we all knew going into it what the process and procedure was, and with the weather that we had, it was just one of those things, right, where you figured you wouldn’t get into this scenario, and sure enough, we got right back into it. But I think it was handled well, and we all knew what we were up against.

Q. Curious, was there anything you could have done in the car or could there have been a different strategy called that could have put you guys in contention for that win in that final stage?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: No, I think we did everything we could. There was not a lot of opportunity. We took the opportunity we could by putting dries on first before everybody else and did a good job of managing not running off the racetrack when it was super wet, and then it all started coming to us.

I think we took every advantage we could once we were behind.

Q. You finished fifth today, Todd finishes seventh. You probably had bigger aspirations yourself, but what does it mean to see both Front Row cars in the top 10 and both running up front way more often?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: Yeah, Todd has done a great job, and they had a good solid day, too, good strategy, and was able to get up front and kind of stay up front. Then at the end there, you just never know which direction is going to work, whether it’s wets or dries.

We were able to come through from pretty deep on the dries to get to fifth, but I don’t even know how — did Bowman win on wets? Really?

Yeah, so there you go. You just never know, right?

But yeah, it’s a tricky deal there at the end. The course was still pretty damp, but then those last three or four laps it started to really come in. I think if it wasn’t a shortened race there, those dries would have been the answer.

THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by our second-place finisher Tyler Reddick.

Q. For those of us here who still don’t know what a Cup race in our city run fully realized as planned start to finish looks like, what will it look like if we’re lucky enough to see it next year?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: That’s a great question. I think the race started out pretty good. Yeah, I think that you’re going to have less probably chaos, but I think at the same time, you’re probably going to have some good racing like you saw in the Xfinity race, a lot of side by side, a lot of passing.

This year is different than last year where a lot of us were just trying to keep it in between the concrete walls and the weather coming in and out, everybody was so timid and nervous that coming back, knowing the course, knowing everything you needed to do setup-wise, you could really attack, and by attacking you’re going to have better racing and probably a few more mistakes.

I’m bummed that we didn’t get to see the full thing play out like we all wanted to, but it’s still a very interesting and exciting race from our standpoint. There’s so much going on when you’re going from wets to dries and the amount of rain and all the things you’re doing inside the car and visibility. This was a full day. It was a full day for sure.

Q. Obviously unique situation, but second year in a row rain has affected a street course race. NASCAR wants to run street courses, so this is probably not the end of situations like this. Based off of that, in the race and you’re running to a time distance, you’ve got the second stage and now you have all these caution laps, one thing that was discussed down here, would it make sense to change the rule there and just say, we’re not going to go to a caution at the stage break of 2, do like last year and keep running laps so there’s more of that racing —

MICHAEL McDOWELL: I like this. I like where you’re going. It’s your idea. I say at all the road courses remove the stage breaks again. That was more fun. Let’s do that. Then it prevents this, just in case there is weather. That’s how we’re going to pitch it. I think that’s the best way to do it.

Q. Is that monkeying with the rules too much, making things up as you go along too much?

MICHAEL McDOWELL: I just don’t think we need the breaks here because they sort of happen organically at the road courses. I really do. Indy was an anomaly. Obviously it went green the whole way. But I don’t know anywhere else — well, Sonoma it did. It would have.

I don’t know. I really don’t. I just don’t think it’s super organic as far as how it all plays out. I think the fastest car should win, and stage breaks take that away.

Q. Tyler, anything that could have been done today to quicken it up?

TYLER REDDICK: Well, coming into it, I’m kind of with Michael, the stage breaks do take away from the strategy a bit. But obviously they want to see restarts, and they want to see some chaos, some controlled chaos, I guess.

But yeah, I think given the situation today, if they would have been, like, yeah, we’re going to get rid of the stage break, I feel like half the field probably would have been happy about it and the other half probably would have been upset.

But I think — I don’t know, I think they’ve got the time that the race was going to end plus two laps, I think they got that out pretty early on in the first rain delay, and that’s all we can ask for, right?

I know we want to make the whole race and get the whole thing in, but it’s good to be honest with ourselves and understand that we only have so much daylight at the end of the day, and these teams plan and strategize for so many different things that what’s one more thing, and us knowing when that’s going to be and how that plays out in stone is probably the way it should be.

Q. Tyler, did you think you were going to catch Bowman there at the end? It looked like the lap times you were knocking seconds off really fast.

TYLER REDDICK: I would have gotten there. What would have happened once I got there, who knows. The plaza, Turn 8 to Turn 12, that part of the racetrack hadn’t been my best all weekend. But certainly we would have gotten really, really close, and it seemed like even on the dries kind of out of the driest lane, there was still more braking potential, just more grip potential there at the very end, even if you were kind of in some of the damp track.

I think I would have gotten there. He would have fought really hard. But unfortunately we’ll never know.

THE MODERATOR: We’ve also been joined by Joey Hand who finished fourth.

Q. Tyler, with you running down the front of the path at the end, do you think that caution that came out right after we got resumed after the second stage, do you think that was probably the difference between being there and challenging Bowman and being three seconds back at the end?

TYLER REDDICK: No, the difference was the mistake on the last lap where I hit the wall. I can’t really tell what it did, but it bent the wheel, and the right front was kind of wandering on its own the rest of the lap.

At that point the gap formed back up because I didn’t want to drive into Turn 6 and hit the tire barrier and finish last. I had a gap back to Ty so I was just trying to manage it, and it seemed like in a lot of the right-hand corners without the weight on that now broken part of the car, I could run okay, but certainly after I hit the wall that hard, my hopes of catching him were gone.

Q. For Joey, fourth-place finish, first stage win. What was the deciding factor between staying out and trying to go the rest of the way on the wets, and just how huge of a day is this for you and for the 60 team?

JOEY HAND: Yeah, well, staying out or not, I was like, we’re going to go back to 20th and then being in a dogfight.

The inside lanes, when it’s wet like this on slicks, it’s tougher to pass. You’re not going to pass a lot of cars. So I was like, we’ve had a great day. We worked our way through from 38th to the lead basically, passing people. I was ready to go down with it like that, to see what happens kind of deal, and the team was on board with that.

Big day, yeah, it was a big day. It was an awesome day. It was super fun. We had a tough qualifying, had some brake bias issue, so we knew the car was better than what we showed in qualifying, and it was. We were able to drive through a lot of cars, a lot of really good cars.

Yeah, this team — this came up a few months ago. Brad and I have gotten close doing sim stuff and he was like, hey, you want to do Chicago? I said, absolutely. I do not turn down races pretty much. I said yep, and the Stage 60 thing, obviously. Yeah, it was a great team, great group of people on the car. I had a lot of fun this whole weekend, even going to the shop and doing seat inserts. They really welcomed me like I had been there for years.

We had a lot of fun, and that kind of camaraderie and that comfort level for me immediately is what gives you pace, and if the car is there, you’ve just got to wheel it.

It all kind of played my way. When the track has these kind of — going wet and dry and all that, you’ve got to find your way, got to find puddles, got to find grip. If you have to get into somebody and move somebody, it’s not as drastic. You can do it softly. I was able just to continue to pass cars.

Awesome day for me to win a stage in a NASCAR race, my eighth win, and to go forward on legitimate pace and to finish fourth when it’s all said and done is a big one for me for sure.

Q. Joey, you’re kind of used to timed races, so I’m curious, did this procedure, was it adequate, or is it foreign? What did you think of it?

JOEY HAND: It didn’t change anything for me. First thing for me is I’m excited that we’re racing the streets of Chicago for sure. I’m a big street race fan. I love it. I love bringing it to the people. I think it’s a great way to get new fans.

It’s unfortunate that for a couple years now we’ve ended up with rain, but I think the first couple days with the concerts and the people out in the sunshine, I think it gives it a really good vibe, and to have a backdrop of a city like this, I’ve raced pretty much every street course in this country, in North America probably, and some in Europe, and you won’t find a backdrop like this.

Long Beach is a great race. I love it. It’s one of my favorite races ever. But this one is special because of where you’re racing.

I honestly didn’t think about it much. They were just saying it might go time, might go laps. I did not care. My goal was to go forward. Honestly my thought process was not that. I told Derrick Finley, my crew chief, I said, you do you. I’m going to do me out here, man. You just told me what I’m going to do. He asked me if I wanted to stay out and just made sure I was cool with staying out on the rains, and that was it. Otherwise they made the calls.

From my standpoint, I think everybody did what they had to do to get this race in. It wouldn’t have changed anything that we did necessarily. If it was laps, maybe we would have pitted, but we just did what we could do with the situation.

Yeah, again, super excited about it. I had a great time. I don’t smile that much for fourth very often, I’ll tell you that. But to lead this thing and win a stage and then come back fourth, it’s a big day for me.

Q. Tyler, if my math is correct, you went from 13th to second in the final five laps —

TYLER REDDICK: I had some help, but — I couldn’t pass many people all day. Obviously we were hopeful coming in here that we’d be a little better than we were at COTA, and it seems like we’re still not exactly where we want to be. Oddly enough, I’d say the best I’ve felt was in more the wet conditions. I don’t know why that was the case. But yeah, kind of all day long, I was very fortunate to avoid a lot of the chaos that was happening around me, and I was able to advance my position because of it.

Q. Obviously you made the mistake, but we heard you beating yourself up pretty good in the TV interview after the race and it seemed like you were beating yourself up after Nashville. I’m sure this is really weighing on you.

TYLER REDDICK: In some ways, at least we’re getting some good finishes out of it and getting good points days, but certainly playoff points mean a lot, and the last two weeks have been fantastic opportunities to capitalize on it and win some races, and wins are hard to come by. It’s really tough when you play a heavy role in them not coming to reality.

Q. Tyler, the Cup Series now has had more experience with wet weather racing, whether it’s been on ovals or road courses. What did you make of how today was handled in terms of starting where the teams had the option to start on either wets or slicks, just trying to get this race moving, the live pit stops, things of that nature? From the drivers’ perspective on track, how do you feel like the series has handled and the drivers have evolved through wet weather racing?

TYLER REDDICK: I think everyone is starting to understand it better, but certainly mistakes still can be made. It can be really slick in certain areas, especially on a street course.

Becoming the two races I’ve had here, my only real street course experience, and I’ve really picked up on that somewhat. I still made plenty of mistakes throughout the day. I was just fortunate to not make huge ones and wreck.

But certainly I think giving us the option to go with the rain tires or the wet tires and the dry tires in the beginning, it added an element of stress that I don’t think we’re necessarily used to, so that was fun to decide what you wanted to do at the start of the race there.

Fortunately made the right choice, but yeah, I remember back to Austin Cindric at COTA the first year we ran there, he stayed out on dry tires a lot longer than everybody else and a lot further into damp conditions than anyone thought possible, and it was really fun learning how to get the grip in the dry tire on a track that was getting more and more wet.

But I thought everything was great other than the visibility on the restart that collected Briscoe and Van Gisbergen was tough. Really couldn’t see anything. But it’s really hard to know what’s too damp or what’s not, I think, in those situations to prevent it.

But that’s the only thing that throughout the whole day was a little sketchy. But sometimes you don’t know what the spray is going to look like when you get going.

Q. You’re now third in the regular season standings. You mentioned playoff points are so important with these wins, but that’s nine potential playoff points. You’re only 23 points now out of the lead. Can you take some solace that even though you’ve been close, there’s still a chance for you to earn a lot of playoff points here with the regular season standings?

TYLER REDDICK: I mean, in some ways, yes, but looking at Iowa, we should have ran first or second and we ran third. Here, we had a great opportunity to contend for the lead and the win in the final lap.

Yes, it’s great to have good points days, but when you get down to the end of this thing at the very end of the year, you’ve got to win at Phoenix, you’ve got to contend, you’ve got to close out the end of these races, and the last two weeks I haven’t done a good job of that.

I’ve just got to think about it, figure it out, and be ready to go at Pocono. The very same situation could come up, and we’ve just got to capitalize on it.

Q. Joey, part of your role is to kind of help this program get better with the road course stuff. How does a day like today with the different conditions, especially so much wet, how is that going to help you with helping this program, with them getting better with the road course and making a further step up?

JOEY HAND: Yeah, I don’t know what we’ll actually learn from it when it’s all said and done, but I guarantee we’ll be looking at it, and RFK will and Ford will. But on this one, it’s the racing and then it’s also the sim work I help with and helping guys with the driving parts and stuff like that.

There’s a lot to learn. Definitely coming back here next year. Whether I race it or not, I’ll have a pretty good feel for where we need to place the car and what stuff worked, and I think I can help out better next year in a lot of the road courses going forward, seeing as how I’m back in the car again.

I was in the car in ’22, obviously, and that was the same idea was to be in reality and then help in the sim stuff and then just kind of understand where setups go and how they evolved.

I think it’ll be the same thing here. I don’t know where it’ll take us, but definitely have a lot of good data here for rain stuff, for obviously bumps and street racing. If nothing else, we’ll have a good feel for what we can do next time we come back.