Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) will hang another banner in its race shop this week, as the team earned its third Top-10 finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in only their sixth season of racing.
Michael McDowell drove the No. 95 K-LOVE Radio Chevrolet SS to his third career Top-10 finish – the second one he has earned with CSLFR – in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Saturday night’s race was a game of survival as multiple wrecks took out or damaged many of the competitor race cars – typical of restrictor plate racing at the superspeedways.
McDowell, crew chief Dave Winston and spotter Steve Barkdoll worked together throughout the race and put the No. 95 team in contention for a win while also avoiding incidents on the race track.
Good luck also plays a role in restrictor plate success, and the team found its first wave of good luck following the second pit stop of the race.
The team pitted under green flag conditions and the No. 95 team was scheduled to come in with a set group of cars, but those cars came in a lap earlier due to situations on the track. McDowell was left on his own and outside of the pack following his pit stop.
This looked to be detrimental to the team, but turned out to be a good thing as McDowell missed the huge wreck on Lap 90, which damaged 15+ cars.
“It all works out for a reason,” commented crew chief Dave Winston at the time.
“For sure!” replied McDowell. “I would have guaranteed you that we would have been in that one! Only the top-10 cars missed it!”
From there, the No. 95 team was back on track, moving up the field and staying in position to be at the front of the pack.
McDowell missed a few more wrecks on the race track with the assistance of spotter Steve Barkdoll, and crew chief Dave Winston made smart calls from the pit box to put the No. 95 in eighth place with six laps to go.
As the field got set to restart with just six laps to go, McDowell commented to Barkdoll that he “cannot lose momentum on the track during the next restart. The middle and top lanes are key; I can’t be stuck at the bottom, I need to stay high.”
Luckily, McDowell restarted in the top lane and it worked out well as he moved up to fifth following another caution and with two laps of racing to go.
Unfortunately, McDowell had to start at the bottom line for the final restart and got shuffled back during the remaining two laps to finish 10th in the Coke Zero 400.
“Couldn’t do anything there at the end,” McDowell radioed to his team post-race. “Just got stuck in the middle by myself. Great job. I think that was a Top-10 finish tonight!”
It was the first Top-10 finish for Dave Winston as a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team will head back to its race shop in Concord, N.C. and hang its third Top-10 banner in the shop this week.
Michael McDowell Earns Top-10 Finish at Daytona
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