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Michael McDowell excited to be in the No. 18 Nationwide Series Toyota a second straight week

Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell

By Lee Montgomery
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

In this Saturday's Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, Michael McDowell gets behind the wheel of a car that's won 38 times in the last four years.

But for McDowell, it's more important that he gets to drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for the second consecutive week.

Driving part-time is never an easy task in NASCAR, especially when a driver jumps in a car that's expected to run up front and win. McDowell finished 10th last weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway in JGR's No. 18 and returns for another short-track race.

"I think the biggest advantage we've got going into this weekend is the fact that we will finally be in the car for back-to-back weekends after our run in Indianapolis," McDowell said. "I just can't even put into words how big that is for a driver and how important that is for your communication with your team and your confidence. Just to get the chance to have back-to-back races will help me and will help my communication with (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) and the rest of the team."

McDowell has driven in three Nationwide Series races this year, finishing seventh at Iowa in May, winning the pole and dominating the Road America race before finishing 12th and then LOR. That supplements his start-and-park ride with Phil Parsons' team in Sprint Cup.

"I'll be fresh behind the wheel, I'll be fresh with the feel of the car and our team communication will just flow right from last week," McDowell said. "So I'm pretty pumped to get the chance to get right back in the car. And on top of that, we'll have only one week off and be right back in the car at Montreal (Aug. 20). So the next few weeks are going to be huge."

Kyle Busch will drive the No. 18 at Watkins Glen next weekend before McDowell returns. For now, though, the focus is on McDowell and Iowa Speedway, which hosts its fourth Nationwide race this weekend.

McDowell has two top-10 finishes in three Iowa starts, including an eighth-place finish in the inaugural race with Brian Keselowski's team.

"(Iowa) has always been a very good track for me, from the ARCA days to even in my Nationwide Series career," McDowell said. "We were really good there in the first race of (this) year. We started up front, led some laps and got a top-10 finish. Now we are going back with the same car, some good notes and more time working together. That just means we should even be that much better.

"We've got a good package to start out with when we unload on Friday. I am just going to have to work on not giving up the track position, especially with my restarts. I actually got a chance to talk with Kyle at Indy about some of the things I was doing and some of the stuff he does, and he helped me out quite a bit and gave me some advice on what he does compared to what I do."

Fast facts
U.S. Cellular 250
Where: Iowa Speedway; Newton, Iowa
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.
Radio: MRN-Sirius/XM Satellite Ch. 90
Track layout: .875-mile oval
Race distance: 250 laps/218.8 laps
Qualifying: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. Eastern
2010 winner: Kyle Busch
2010 polesitter: Trevor Bayne
Points standings: 1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 740; 2. Reed Sorenson, 737; 3. Elliott Sadler, 716; 4. Justin Allgaier, 689; 5. Aric Almirola, 671; 6. Jason Leffler, 646; 7. Kenny Wallace, 637; 8. Steve Wallace, 572; 9. Brian Scott, 566; 10. Michael Annett, 565.