McDowell, Yeley Shine at Daytona
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on February 25, 2013 | 10:28 A.M. EST
Michael McDowell hustled his No. 98 Ford to a ninth-place finish in Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Both Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley came away from the Daytona 500 with top-10 finishes, helping boost exposure for their respective Sprint Cup Series teams.
McDowell’s ninth-place finish in Sunday's season opener was his first career top 10 in 115 starts. Driving the No. 98 K-Love Ford for Phil Parsons Racing, McDowell spent 57 laps in the top 15 before crossing the finish line ahead of Yeley in 10th place.
"It’s huge," McDowell said. "Gene Nead (crew chief) and all the guys put in 24-hour shifts working on this car. We barely got here on time. Roush Yates is obviously the best motor you can have for restrictor plate racing. It’s good momentum for the year."
McDowell's team is still in search of additional sponsorship. Sunday's finish, along with $366,121 in winnings, should help the one-car operation get things going for the balance of the season.
"We want an opportunity to run all the races," McDowell said. "We have the people to do it and we have the equipment to do it. Hopefully, the funding will come with it. For right now, we’ll do another race with K-Love and we have a race with Curb Records. We have to fill up the rest. We have a few deals coming together and hopefully, we'll be able to run 5-10 races. Obviously, we'd like to expand that as much as we can."
Yeley, who joined Tommy Baldwin Racing this year to drive the No. 36 Chevrolet, posted his first top 10 since 2008. He started 41st and lost a lap early, but was able to bounce back after getting the free pass on Lap 86.
"It was looking bleak at the beginning, trying to figure out the draft," Yeley said. "Our car was really, really good in a pack but last in line, I lost the draft twice. Once I figured it out, the car was really good. I was lucky on restarts that I was always an even-numbered car because starting on the outside was critical.
"I’m disappointed because I gave up a position trying to get underneath Regan (Smith) coming off Turn 4, but still logged a top 10."
The finish was not only important for Yeley, but also for his sponsor - Golden Corral, which had a special promotion tied in with the race if he finished in the top 10.
"The goal when we started today was to get a top-10 finish," Yeley said. "Because of the Golden Corral sponsorship, kids will eat free on Monday."