Michael McDowell had a tremendous opportunity on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway: Driving Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 car while the suspended Kyle Busch sat atop the team's pit box and watched.
Unfortunately for McDowell, the driver change meant the No. 18 would have to start at the rear of the field. And with a long, green-flag run to open the race, McDowell and his temporary team never got much of a chance to work on the car.
"It'’s a great opportunity to be in great equipment and (I) had some fun today," McDowell said. "Obviously, not at all the result we were looking for. Just long green-flag runs. Didn't get a long time to work on it.
"Just none of it really played out all that well for us today, but still thankful for the opportunity. It'’s great to be in great equipment and hopefully we get an opportunity to do it again.”"
McDowell said he knew he had big shoes to fill ("There's not a lot of people in our sport that have won 100 races," he said) and thus fell short of the team's expectations.
But overall, he enjoyed the experience and said he "gave it all I had."
"We were hoping for more, but for me, it was just great," he said. "I was planning on doing 20 laps this weekend, so I think I did 310 more than I was planning on and (it was a) great opportunity to work with a great team and just see how they do things a little bit different."
Busch, the No. 18 car's regular driver, watched from atop the pit box after apologizing to his team in a Sunday morning meeting.
"He looked them in the eye, straight-up, man to man, ‘(and said), 'This is where I stand, this is what I did, this is how I feel,'" crew chief Dave Rogers said of the meeting. "He didn’'t sugarcoat anything, didn'’t make excuses for anything, but he leveled with the team.
"That honesty is a strength of this race team. We are honest with each other whether things are going good or bad. He did that today and that made the guys feel good because it’'s like, ‘'OK, that'’s our teammate; he'’s not sugarcoating things."
Busch remains under fire due to his actions in Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race, in which he blatantly wrecked title contender Ron Hornaday.
Sponsor M&M's released a statement on its Facebook page Sunday morning that read:
"The recent actions by Kyle Busch are not consistent with the values of M&M's and we're very disappointed. Like you, we hold those who represent our brand to a higher standard and we have expressed our concerns directly to Joe Gibbs Racing."
It's unclear whether Busch will be back in the No. 18 car next week, though NASCAR did not give indication he was parked for any races beyond Texas.