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Volusia Speedway Park

McDowell thankful for healthy, winning return

January 21, 2022, 7:05 pm
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor
Dale McDowell in Volusia's victory lane. (jacynorgaardphotography.com)
Dale McDowell in Volusia's victory lane. (jacynorgaardphotography.com)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 21) — While Dale McDowell's prognosis after last summer's prostate cancer diagnosis was promising, there were plenty of times when the 55-year-old National Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer needed a pick-me-up.

While struggling with a catheter, wondering if he'd ever get behind the wheel of a Dirt Late Model again or considering his mortality, the Chickamauga, Ga., racer was grateful to have meaningful emotional support from family, friends, sponsors and longtime No. 17m fans. | RaceWire

"I think, when I would kind of get down, and didn't know what I was going to be able to do or if I was going to be behind, somebody would reach out and kind of pick me back up," McDowell said Friday afternoon in the pits at Volusia Speedway Park. "So that was the neat part of (seeing) how much fan support and support that a guy has when he's down, so I learned a lot, learned a lot through that process."

But McDowell's best medicine?

Friday's comeback victory at Volusia in the season-opening event on the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, a $10,000 payday at the national circuit's Sunshine Nationals and the 13th WoO triumph of his career.

"You were running like you were scared you weren't going to win another one," former Lucas Oil and Hav-A-Tampa series director Ritchie Lewis said with a smile, sharing a fist bump as the gray-headed McDowell climbed from his victorious Shane McDowell Racing entry.

For McDowell, there were definitely moments he wasn't sure he'd visit victory lane again, adding to his Hall of Fame career that includes 53 national touring victories, a World 100 victory and championship on the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series.

"I mean the uncertainties of being out of the car, you know, at my age, I felt like that might be a big impact, because these young guys are aggressive and race a lot," McDowell said. "But you know, I just I had some uncertainties of what we would be able to do."

What McDowell was able to do on Friday on Volusia's less-than-smooth D-shaped track was dominate a competitive field for 30 laps, looking like McDowell of age 25 ... or 35 ... or 45. Now at 55, just three months after surgery to remove his prostate, McDowell is on a two-race winning streak and looking like he's barely missed a beat (he won a $7,500 Southern All Star feature last September the week before his scheduled surgery).

An elder statesmen in the pits, there are few drivers more respected than McDowell, who paused one of his postrace interviews to receive a heartfelt hug from Illinois driver Brian Shirley. You'd have to comb the pits to find someone who didn't think McDowell wouldn't immediately be a contender at Volusia in his comeback race, an event pushed from Thursday night to Friday afternoon because of unfavorable track conditions and a long night of racing. McDowell, who has raced alongside his younger brother and crew chief Shane throughout his career, might've had more doubt than anyone.

"Well, Shane said yesterday 'This is a hell of a place to come knock the rust off,' because I ran two laps qualifying, wide open and never lifted, and that's what it takes you know. So it was pretty physical, you know, and if we got to race last night, it would have been pretty treacherous, you know," McDowell said. "So, you know, like Shane said, we'll come down here and kind of see where our program's at, see where I'm at as a driver, you know, and just get started."

Where's the program? As good as ever.

"To get a win under our belt right after all this happened is very, very gratifying," McDowell said. "Not only for me, it's just it's so awesome, makes me feel awesome that all these people stood behind us through all this. And they've been right there supporting us as much as ever, and that makes me really feel special."

McDowell's story began nearly a year ago when he began feeling unusually tired in the middle of the day. Encouraged by Mike Parkhurst — a representative of one of SMR's major sponsors, E-Z-Go — to check his testosterone, McDowell saw a physician.

"So when I went, my testosterone was down low, really bottomed out for my age," said McDowell, who also had his prostate-specific antigens checked. "So they started searching and it took them a little bit — took them six, seven or eight months by the time we did everything to check my PSA, to find my PSA was a little high. It was a 4.14, so anything over a 4, you've gotta go see a urologist.

"So that's where all of the steps of the procedure started happening, and where my tumor was, they were able to successfully remove my prostate through robotic surgery. So with a robotic surgery, you have less nerve damage, so your healing process is so much quicker. And, you know, as far as being able to hold your bladder and do all the things the bad (side effects) you hear about when you have to have your prostate taken out. So I'm back pretty good and all the signs are positive. I've gotta go every three months (to check) bloodwork just to make sure everything's clear, and then we'll go from there. Everything's good so far."

This is the part where McDowell has a public service announcement for fellows his age: keep tabs on your prostate health.

"Any of you guys who are close to our age, get out there and get checked. Go to the doctor. They caught mine early. The good Lord above allowed me to be here and thanks to him, all my family, Tiffany, the kids, Shane and Sara, all the family that reached out and help," McDowell said. "Any of you guys that don't go to the doctor regularly, us racers, we don't want to go to the doctor. That's the last thing we want to do. But I started going to the doctor, got bloodwork stuff done and they caught it early. So very blessed and happy to be here."

"To get a win under our belt right after all this happened is very, very gratifying. Not only for me, it's just it's so awesome, makes me feel awesome that all these people stood behind us through all this. And they've been right there supporting us as much as ever, and that makes me really feel special."

— Hall of Famer Dale McDowell after winning Friday at Volusia

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