Team Preview: Circle Sport-Leavine Racing

NASCAR

Michael McDowell unveiled the No. 95 Chevrolet last week during the Media Tour in Charlotte. (Photo: Getty Images)

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There’s a new twist to a pair of Sprint Cup Series teams that have merged for the 2016 season.

Leavine Family Racing and Circle Sport have joined forces to create one single entity to run the full season.

Michael McDowell returns to pilot the No. 95 for at least 26 races while Ty Dillon takes the wheel in a partial schedule that begins with the Daytona 500.

The organization has formed an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and will run Chevrolets utilizing the ECR engine program.

“I appreciate Joe Falk in joining the partnership with myself and LFR, obviously, for Circle Sport Leavine Family Racing,” team owner Bob Leavine said of the new partnership. “That was the emphasis that helped us go 36 races. And for us, that’s big.

“This is our sixth year being in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and it’s been a great six years. Secondly, the partnership with RCR technical alliance and Chevrolet is also gigantic in that step moving forward.”

The team recently announced that Dave Winston, a 15-year veteran in NASCAR, will be the crew chief while Jeremy Lange, who oversaw marketing for the team the past two years, has been promoted to Vice President of Operations.

McDowell has been with the team since 2014 and experienced the many ups and downs of the organization along the way, which included a fire at the team’s headquarters last season.

He’s excited about the opportunity that lies ahead to bring the team to the next level.

“It definitely wasn’t easy,” McDowell said. “There were times where Bob turned over every stone, every rock, every possibility. And that’s really what it takes with a small team. When I first started at LFR, we didn’t know what races we would do…15, 20. I really think that process of growing slowly has helped us to get to the point where we’re at now.

“This is a big step for our competition program. The technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing is a huge asset to our growing team and we’ll have access to some of the top equipment in the Cup Series. This type of alliance has worked really well for single-car teams such as JTG Racing and Germain Racing in the past and I’m excited about what we’re going to be able to do in 2016.”

Dillon, who will again run for the XFINITY Series championship with RCR, is looking ahead to his limited Sprint Cup schedule this year with a team that he believes can raise its competitiveness.

“I want to win a race for these guys,” Dillon said. “As much as the Leavine Family has put into this and grown their team with Circle Sport and Joe Falk. These are great people and I want to win a race for them. There are no aspirations that are too high.

”This is really going to be a lot of fun this year, getting to drive this race car. I believe this team is going to be one of the top tier teams. My goal is to get some great finishes for this team and to make great strides for myself as a whole in Sprint Cup. For all that both Joe Falk and Bob Leavine have put into growing their two teams, I would really like to win a race for them in this new effort and show what the team is capable of.”

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