*This is the first of two articles that will come from our interview with Dale McDowell. The second will run just before the Dirt Late Model Dream races to be held next week at Eldora Speedway.
To list all of the accomplishments of National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member Dale McDowell over the course of his legendary career would even challenge the internet’s seemingly infinite space. Championships in the Hav-A-Tampa Series and the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series are paired alongside race wins such as the Dirt Late Model Dream, the World 100, the USA Nationals, and the Topless 100. Almost any race car driver who has ever strapped on a helmet would be envious of such a record.
When the checkered flag waved over the Scott Sexton Memorial race at Seymour, Tennessee’s 411 Motor Speedway the veteran driver added yet another achievement to his record. McDowell was crowned as the champion of the Ray Cook-promoted Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals for the second time in his career.
After such a remarkable career, the longtime star of the Dirt Late Model world has grown to have a greater appreciation for such feats than he might have had at an younger age.
“You start counting how many more times you’re going to have that opportunity when you get a little older,” McDowell said in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com following his fourth place effort at 411. “As you get a little older, you do start looking at the opportunities that you have and the stuff that you missed. When you’re younger and you miss those opportunities you think ‘Oh, I’ll get it next year’. I just turned 55 so those next years are getting thinner than they were a long time ago. We’ve been at it a long time so I’m more grateful for the victories and the championships now.”
All the accomplishments of a career such as the one pieced together by the Chickamauga, GA native would not have been possible without a great deal of support from outside sources. McDowell and the Shane McDowell Racing team owned by his brother have been helped by numerous companies and individuals over the years.
“We’ve got an awesome group of partners with E-Z-Go, and Klotz, and Cometic, and a lot of other people who help us like Jeep Van Wormer’s company helps us a little bit and Clements, and Fox Shocks, and there are a lot of people who help us,” McDowell pointed out. “It takes everybody to make it happen. We’re still having fun but without all those people who have been with us over the years we couldn’t have done it. There’s a long list of people who have helped this organization and I’m very grateful. I wouldn’t be where I am today and Shane wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of sponsors that are with us and even those who are no longer with us. But it has taken all of that for us to be able to do this.”
Ever the perfectionist, McDowell would liked to have done a bit better on this year’s Spring Nationals tour. Despite scoring one win at the Crossville Speedway and never finishing outside the top-5 during the nine-race mini-series, the driver believes his team could have had even more success.
Bad luck was a culprit on at least one occasion. While leading and having what looked to be a dominant car at Rome Speedway on Sunday night, McDowell was forced to the pit area with a flat tire on lap 9. Even with that misfortune, the No. 17m Team Zero Race Car managed to recover for a 5th place result.
“I felt like we needed to win more races,” he declared. “Last night(Rome), I think we had a really good shot there and had a flat tire while we were leading. A couple of others of those we weren’t quite up to where I would like for us to be competitive-wise. But consistency, Shane and Landon(Hayes, crew member), they do an awesome job of keeping everything in check and getting everything ready. I very seldom go to the shop anymore. I told somebody the other day that Shane is eight years younger than me so it keeps the fire in us. Sometimes the flames get a little low in me but he keeps us going and that works out well for us. And we’re having fun.”
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