Michael McDowell’s homecoming to Phoenix International Raceway was not as easy as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and his crew chief, Dave Winston, would have liked. Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing struggled to find speed during practice and qualifying sessions during the weekend, but was able to make gains during the race to finish the Good Sam 500 in 26th place.
McDowell, who hails from Glendale, Az. and grew up racing BMX and go-karts in the area, started the Good Sam 500 in 33rd position. He piloted the No. 95 Thrivent Financial Chevrolet up to 25th place when a few issues arose.
Right after the halfway point of the race, McDowell radioed to his crew reporting that he felt the engine was going. Luckily, he was able to continue under green flag conditions until the next caution during which the team inspected the race car and found that it had a cracked header.
McDowell was able to continue the race and bring the No. 95 Thrivent Financial Chevrolet SS to the finish line in 26th place.
“It was a struggle this weekend, but we certainly made gains during the race,” said McDowell. “We improved three more spots this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway and we’re continuing our stride of making small gains every week. We are looking forward to taking on Fontana next weekend.”
The team has been working on improving its competition program week-by-week, especially on the 1.5-mile tracks and smaller speedways and the 26th place finish was a three-position gain from last week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The team’s best finish this season was 15th in the Daytona 500.
Next up for the Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing is the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Sunday, March 20 at 3:30pm ET. Race fans can follow the team on Twitter at @CSLFR95 for updates.