From RC Pan Cars to NASCAR
Michael McDowell has always been racing
The engines' roar, the burning rubber smell, and the exhilaration of high-speed racing have long captivated fans worldwide. For NASCAR driver Michael McDowell, this adrenaline-fueled journey began not on the asphalt of a racetrack but on the dusty tracks of his childhood, racing radio control (RC) cars. McDowell's evolution from RC racing blog to a professional NASCAR driver is a testament to his unwavering passion, relentless determination, and the valuable lessons he learned from his younger days racing RC as a kid.
Michael McDowell's Start With RC
Long before he became a household name in the world of NASCAR, McDowell was already a budding racer, spending countless hours mastering radio control racing. As a kid, he learned strategy and control, which would be instrumental in his professional racing career. McDowell's experience with RC cars taught him the importance of precision and finesse, skills that would eventually transfer to NASCAR's much larger and faster vehicles.
McDowell was six years old when he received his first radio control truck for Christmas. He had already been racing BMX bikes competitively, and this new opportunity with RC as a kid continued his passion for racing.
"We started racing RC," said McDowell. "We played around a bit and then found out there's a track you can go to and actually race and compete against other guys."
There were two tracks in his area in Arizona, where he grew up. An outdoor track where he could race the RC truck, and an indoor carpet track. It was the indoor track that piqued his interest. He quickly got a 1/10 scale RC Pan Car he could run on the indoor track. It escalated from there into how fast he could hop it up with a better motor, tires, and more.
McDowell said, "My Dad laughs about it now, but he spent so much time fixing my RC car all the time. I was a maniac with it."
Becoming a Professional Racer
Going from BMX to radio control and then go-carts and eventually the professional ranks of NASCAR, McDowell fine-tuned his technical expertise and cultivated an intuitive understanding of extracting maximum performance.
"When I transitioned from radio control to actual controls, it was amazing how your mind shifts gears," McDowell said. "It felt the same to me. I know it sounds weird, but when I'm driving with a remote, I can also see and feel the corner apex like you would if you were driving. The hand-eye coordination is very similar. You lose a little of the feel when you aren't actually sitting in the seat, but it's really interesting how it all works."
McDowell's enduring lesson from his early years is the necessity of continuous learning and adaptability. As he moved from one form of racing to another, he learned the best practices, refined his skills, and developed as a racer. This growth mindset has enabled him to remain competitive and relevant in the ever-evolving world of NASCAR. He won the Daytona 500 in 2021 for his first NASCAR Cup Series win, and on August 13, 2023, he took the checkered flag on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in the Verizon 200. His Number 34 Horizon Hobby-sponsored Ford® Mustang® led most of the way and earned McDowell an automatic bid into the postseason field.
RC For Kids Can Turn Into a Career
From BMX racing to radio control Pan Cars to go-carts to NASCAR, McDowell has never stopped competing and is always looking for the checkered flag. RC for kids can open up these kinds of racing dreams.
"I raced every single weekend from the time I was eight years old to, well, I'm still racing every weekend, so I haven't really stopped. It's all I've really done."