McDowell and Cindric Sweep Front Row in Talladega Qualifying

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying
Talladega Superspeedway | Saturday, April 20, 2024


  • Michael McDowell and Austin Cindric swept the front row in qualifying for tomorrow’s Geico 500.
  • It marks the fourth time in 2024 that Ford has captured the top two spots (Daytona with Joey Logano and McDowell; Atlanta with McDowell and Logano; Bristol with Ryan Blaney and Josh Berry).
  • The pole is McDowell’s second of the season and second of his career.
  • Todd GIlliland qualified third to give Ford a sweep of the top three positions.
  • The pole is Ford’s fifth overall this season (Logano at Daytona and Las Vegas; McDowell at Atlanta and Talladega; Blaney at Bristol).

Ford Performance Qualifying Results:
1st – Michael McDowell
2nd – Austin Cindric
3rd – Todd Gilliland
7th – Joey Logano
8th – Chris Buescher
11th – Ryan Preece
16th – Harrison Burton
21st – Ryan Blaney
22nd – Brad Keselowski
26th – Chase Briscoe
27th – Justin Haley
29th – Josh Berry
34th – Cody Ware
36th – Noah Gragson

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang Dark Horse – POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? “It’s great. For us at Front Row, when we went to Daytona and sat on the front row we’re like, ‘Hey we’ve got something here.’ I kind of backed that up at Atlanta with getting the pole and I think we all felt that pressure knowing that we were so strong at Atlanta and Daytona to come here to Talladega and try to repeat and have a really good starting spot. The guys put a lot of energy and effort into all of the little extra details that it takes on these superspeedways to get that speed, so excited for tomorrow. I feel really good about what we’ve been able to do this year with our superspeedway program, not just with speed but racing well. I think Todd has led the most laps at the superspeedways this year and we’ve been up front a lot, so it was a great team effort and I’m excited to try to get a Dark Horse Mustang into Victory Lane. It’s a good week for it. This week Mustang celebrated 60 years and had an awesome event in Charlotte. I wasn’t there. I was actually in Oklahoma at Love’s, but this is a good week for us to get a win and get the first one of the season and we’ve got a lot of great Mustangs starting up there with us. We just have to execute our plan and strategy and make it all work.”

HOW MUCH DO YOU CARRY IN THE SETUP OF THE CAR AND YOUR KNOWLEDGE FROM DAYTONA TO TALLADEGA? “I think as far as the car goes, in particular with this Next Gen car, it’s pretty similar what you bring to Daytona to what you bring here. I mean, there are a few changes obviously that the loading and the banking and the bumps and things are in different spots, so you’re always working the details, but it’s pretty similar altogether as far as the package goes. How you race here and how you put yourself in position to win, I feel like, is different and so the approach that you take to get in position works out a little different than Daytona does. As we’ve seen in year’s past, it can happen pretty late coming to the line because the start-finish line is so far down, so definitely a different approach, but having speed I think correlates to both.”

YOUR TEAMMATE SAID HE WAS GOING TO WIN TALLADEGA. KNOWING THE SPEED YOU HAVE IN YOUR CARS DOES HE HAVE A SHOT HERE? “For sure he has a shot. I think that Todd’s done a really good job this year. They haven’t gotten the results that show their speed and just the level of maturity he’s shown at these races. Atlanta, I feel like we probably had the two best cars and unfortunately just didn’t work out. He got tied up in that accident late and got damage and then I had that pit road incident. At Daytona, he led a lot of laps, so I do feel like we’re in a good spot to go challenge for a win and I’m glad that he’s confident and optimistic about winning the race. To be honest with you, I’m gonna do everything I can to help that happen, and I know he’ll do the same. How that all plays out is difficult, but we know the importance and what it means to win a race for Front Row Motorsports and what it means to get a car in the playoffs. We’ve worked hard the last two years to work on what we can do together to be better and I feel like Brad and Chris sort of set that standard last year, and you saw how valuable it was and so we sort of had to change the approach of how we were doing it. We were probably being a little bit too selfish and now we kind of understand where the value is in working together. We’ve always worked together. It’s never been him versus me. I mean, we’ve never had that atmosphere at Front Row, but it’s always been, ‘Hey, my line was going. I’m not necessarily jumping down in your line if mine is going,’ and now we’re more team effort of making those moves and trying to do it strategically together.”

DO YOU FEEL THE SPEED IS TRANSLATING TO RACE TRIM OR IS THERE SOMETHING MISSING? “I think the speed is there. I can’t speak for every Ford team, but for us, we just haven’t done a good enough job of executing. We’ve had moments. Last week, for example. We had an opportunity to take the lead there and felt like we had a car that was good enough to give ourselves a legitimate shot at winning and I crashed, so I don’t feel like, ‘Oh, man. We’re down on speed.’ I don’t really feel that way. I just feel like we haven’t done a good job at Front Row, myself included, to execute well enough to win a race, but I feel like we’ve had good speed. I’m not sitting here telling you that we were better than Larson and better than the 11 and better than the 45. We weren’t, but we executed well up until that point and got track position and they had a few mistakes and that opened up the window to where we had a shot at it. Track position is so important, so, yes, we still need to find a little bit of speed, but I feel like a lot of that is just on us just doing a better job of executing.”

WHY IS MRO IMPORTANT TO YOU? “Motor Racing Outreach is a community inside the community. For me, it’s super valuable for a lot of reasons. For me, racing for 18-20 years predominantly on a Saturday and Sunday it’s my church. This is where I stay plugged in and, more importantly, it’s where my family is hanging out and spending time and doing community together. You guys know I have like 400 kids, I think Jamie McMurray said on Race Hub one time. I don’t really have 400. I have five, but just them having a place to go to and being able to be at the racetrack is such a huge part because our schedule is so intense and so tough and it’s not just the weekend. Like this week, I left on Wednesday and went to Love’s. I came here Thursday and had a Ford event. We’re going all the time, so having them here at the racetrack is what helps keep my family together and keeps me involved in the things that matter, so MRO is a big part of that.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN YOUR DOOR SIGNATURE? “With the cross? That’s just something early on that came from David Reutimann. When I was at MWR, David Reutimann was my teammate and he always had it over his name and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of a cool way to show your faith but also connect with fans.’ So I got it from him really. That’s where it came from. Obviously, he’s not racing anymore and I think he got it, don’t hold me to this, but I think he got it from Joe Nemechek. I would say so because Joe always had it too, and I think David got it from him, so I’m just kind of carrying the torch.”

IS THIS A MUST-WIN FOR FORD? “That’s so hard to answer because I feel like every race is a must-win, but, at the same time, I’m not panicked. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, I don’t feel like, ‘Oh, we missed an opportunity and there’s not another one right around the corner.’ Does that answer it? Yes, tomorrow is a must-win, but if it doesn’t happen I’m not panicked. I think we have speed still.”

HOW DOES THIS SECOND POLE FEEL COMPARED TO THE FIRST? “As far as getting the pole at Atlanta, it was over the moon exciting to get my first pole. Front Row actually had a pole prior to that, so it was a cool moment, a cool experience, but I’d be lying to you if I told you we didn’t come here expecting to get the pole. I say that because we ran so good at Daytona, qualified well, really close to getting the pole there, got it at Atlanta. We brought our Daytona car to Talladega with our Atlanta engine and so we were like, ‘Hey, we’ve kind of got the best of both worlds.’ We were coming down here with the expectation to sit on the pole. I mean, obviously it doesn’t always work that way, but we had reason to think that we could. Gardner, my PR guy there, when we were walking to qualifying at COTA he’s like, ‘Hey, do you want to stop in and do your top 25 media obligation?’ I’m like, ‘No way, man. I’m gonna get the pole. I’m gonna be in there afterwards and we’ll talk to everybody,’ and I think I qualified like 25th. So, just because you think you’re gonna go down there and do it doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. But today when we were walking out he’s like, ‘You want to go to the bullpen?’ And I was like, ‘No way, man. We’re gonna get the pole,’ and I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I told you that at COTA too and I think we qualified 25th,’ so you always have high hopes and expectations, but I felt like we had a reason to be optimistic about today and tomorrow.”

HOW DO YOU BALANCE PATIENCE AND STAYING UP FRONT TO WIN THIS RACE? “I think it’s changed over the years. There’s been some guys in the last two years that maybe have been able to cycle to the front at the end when it counts, but the style of racing with as good as everybody is at executing you don’t really ride around anymore and stay out of the trouble. There are times where high intensity and everybody is getting a little crazy and you feel that and you’re like, ‘I’ll probably not stuff it three-wide,’ but at no point do you want to lose track position and that’s what has really changed over the last couple of years, especially with this Next Gen car. It is hard to go from the back to the front and so if you are safely in the top five or eight, you really want to stay there and a lot of times you have to drive and fight really hard all day long to stay there, so, yes and no. I think you don’t want to be the guy who is making big, bold moves that is putting everybody in a compromising position, but you have to fight hard to keep your track position because there is no guarantee that you’re gonna get it back. I think last year I probably did a bad job of that. I ended up cycling to about 16th or 17th with 12 laps to go and I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna wedge myself up there. I know there’s gonna be at least one or two big crashes before the end of this. There’s no sense of being in it,’ and it never came and I finished 17th or 18th. You look back on that and you’re like, ‘Oh, man. I should have been aggressive and I should have wedged myself up in there.’ So, sometimes that old-school mentality, the Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. – stay out of the trouble, be in the back and surge to the front when it counts, it’s just harder to do now so you see guys like even Martin and Denny race hard all day long and be up front because it matters that much.”

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang Dark Horse – “It’s certainly great to have some fast Ford Mustangs at Talladega. The guys have really done an awesome job all across the board in the Ford camp to get us ready for these speedway races and have something to fight with. So that’s what we’ll have tomorrow and try and get the Menards Ford in Victory Lane.”

TODD GILLILAND, No. 38 gener8tor Ford Mustang Dark Horse – “It’s great. We’re overall a little selfish and always want a little bit more, but it was a really good day for us. Front Row has been bringing really fast cars to the racetrack in general, but on these superspeedway racetracks we’ve been ultra competitive, so I still think this is our weekend to go out and get a win. I feel more confident than ever. My car has been driving really good in the race as well, so I think this is our week. We’re off to a good start and we can definitely win from there.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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