NASCAR: Michael McDowell embracing new 'underdog' partnership

After forming a partnership in October, NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell and Famous Toastery recently announced an extension that runs through January 2025.

Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

Famous Toastery, the renowned better breakfast franchise known for its Famously Fresh and simple-scratch menu, recently announced an extended partnership with Front Row Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell.

The initial partnership began in October 2023, just before the end of last season, and the new deal between the Charlotte, North Carolina-based breakfast, brunch, and lunch franchise and the 2021 Daytona 500 winner has now been extended through January 2025.

"It's kind of a cool story, just because my wife and I and our family have been going to Famous Toastery for 10 years now, and so it's kind of our local spot," McDowell told Beyond the Flag. "We live right in between Davidson and Mooresville, so we kind of bounce between the two Famous Toasterys there, and so we just built a relationship and got to know those folks, being customers and coming in all the time and kind of hanging out.

"It just all kind of came together really organically through a couple friends. It's cool because I feel like it's like a local kind of like hometown, grassroots partnership that allows us to help them grow their brand. They’re a growing franchise, and hopefully in 10 years, they'll be nationwide and a big brand that everybody will know, so hopefully we're a part of that development."

Michael McDowell and Famous Toastery: A perfect fit

McDowell, whose Cup Series career dates back to 2008 and includes an ample amount of perseverance prior to his Daytona 500 breakthrough three years ago, feels that the partnership is a perfect fit, so an extension only made sense.

He views himself as somewhat of an "unknown", and Famous Toastery is in the same boat in terms of trying to grow their brand. It began in 2005 and evolved into a franchise system in 2013. There are now more than two dozen locations, many of which in North Carolina.

"I kind of consider myself a little bit of an unknown, and they're helping me grow my brand and get my name out there as well, so it's been a really good partnership."

The former "start-and-park" driver, whose first full-time ride didn't come until his 10th season in the sport, even embraced the "underdog" label, considering his long and winding path to where he is now in NASCAR -- and the brand's similar path to where they are now within the restaurant business.

"Yeah, definitely," McDowell said. "I think everything aligned when I met with Robert [Maynard, CEO] and met with Michael [Sebazco, President]. Our stories are very similar, just trying to make it and seeing a need and working hard, but more than anything, just prioritizing family and community and trying to do it the right way.

"It was a really easy fit for us to just start working on what it could look like, and obviously it's grown over the last 12 months, and hopefully it'll continue to grow as they're bringing out new franchises in new areas and territories and keep expanding the restaurant brand."

As a part of the initial deal between the two parties, McDowell had the opportunity to participate in the ceremonial coin toss before December's Famous Toastery Bowl game at Jerry Richardson Stadium. The game was played on the campus of the UNC Charlotte, and it was an overtime thriller between the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Old Dominion Monarchs.

"That was a lot of fun," McDowell said. "Growing up racing, I didn't do a lot of other sports and didn't participate in a lot of other sports and really didn't even watch a lot of other sports because I was racing every weekend, so it was a cool experience to go down on the field, and to be right there where the action is."

He described his experience during the coin toss.

"The coin toss was, as silly as it sounds – it's like it's not that big of a deal, you’re just flipping a coin right? – but all of a sudden, it was like cameras, ESPN – don't screw this up, do I grab it, do I not grab it, do I let it hit the ground? – I started thinking about all this stuff like it was qualifying! But no, it was a lot of fun and we enjoyed it," he continued.

Famous Toastery wasn't initially supposed to be a part of any NCAA football bowl game last year. This particular game was originally planned as the Bahamas Bowl, but it ended up being renamed and relocated due to renovations at its usual site in the Bahamas, Thomas Robinson Stadium.

That big break, similar to that which McDowell experienced when he landed a full-time ride with Front Row Motorsports six years ago, helped launch the brand into the national spotlight, and now both Famous Toastery and McDowell are capitalizing with an expanded partnership.

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"It was a great opportunity for them, kind of last minute and unusual circumstances for them to be able to do it, but it was a great opportunity for sure."