Team Preview: Leavine Family Racing
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on February 3, 2017 | 9:30 A.M. EST
"How we finished last year, running in the top 20 and finishing with a top 10, we have high hopes going into 2017." (Photo: Getty Images)
Leavine Family Racing will compete full-time with one primary driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the first time since its inception in 2011.
Last year, Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon combined to drive the team's flagship No. 95 Chevrolet with McDowell running 29 races in that car and two in the No. 59 entry. This season, McDowell will run the full schedule for the first time in his career behind the wheel of the No. 95.
"It's crazy when you think about it. I've been racing in the Cup Series since 2008 and this will be my first time running for a championship," McDowell said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity. We have a great program coming together."
McDowell is coming off his best season in a Cup car, posting a 24.5 average finish including two top 10s at Daytona International Speedway (July) and in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"How we finished last year, running in the top 20 and finishing with a top 10, we have high hopes going into 2017," McDowell said. "We’ve done a great job in the off-season, infrastructure-wise and just getting prepared. We hope to pick up right where we left off and do that consistently now that we’re running full-time. To run in those low 20s and in the teens gives you an opportunity to steal a good result."
Crew chief Todd Parrott, who assumed his duties last October, is returning. In their starts together, Parrott helped lead McDowell to a 19.6 average finish and the 10th-place finish at HMS - marking McDowell's first career Cup Series top 10 on an intermediate oval.
"Sometimes, you have that transition period where you’re trying to get to know a guy and trying to learn how to communicate with him," McDowell said. "Todd and I didn’t have that. We jumped in, both had something to prove and wanted to do it. When you have success, that helps, when you start off on a good footing. He believes in me and I believe in him. That’s the biggest chemistry factor that matters, when you have a crew chief who believes he has the driver that can do the job and vice versa."
Last year also saw McDowell score his first win in a NASCAR national series with his XFINITY victory at Road America driving for Richard Childress Racing, a team LFR has a technical alliance with. As of now, McDowell has no XFINITY races scheduled for 2017.
"My focus is in the Cup Series, making sure we put our best foot forward," he said. "If there’s an opportunity to run in a Chevrolet at one of the road courses or even on the ovals, I'd do it."
While McDowell will be racing more miles in the Cup Series in 2017, he won't have to put more miles on the highway getting to the track each week.
"My father-in-law and mother-in-law are coming to drive the motorhome," McDowell said. "It'll be the first time I’ve had somebody drive the motorhome, so that’s going to save me 30,000 miles of driving with the family. We’ve enjoyed the time, we love it. It's allowed us to be together and allowed me to see my kids' first steps and hear their first words. But now, it’s a new season and I’m looking forward to not having all those extra miles on the road to and from the racetrack, and being able to focus on the job at hand."
Daytona International Speedway will open for NASCAR teams on Friday, Feb. 17, with the season-opening Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of "The Great American Race" beginning at 1 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.
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