Although Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) had a strong car throughout the weekend, the team struggled to find the right adjustments during practice sessions on Friday and spent the first day of on-track time trying new set-ups. McDowell and the No. 95 Malwarebytes Chevrolet SS qualified in the 27th position, even after grazing the wall during the first round of qualifying. With the progress made during practice and qualifying, the team knew they would be able to continue to improve and gain positions during the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday night.
At the start of the race, McDowell quickly worked his way into the Top-25 before struggling with a tight-handling Malwarebytes Chevrolet SS during the first long, green flag run. He would eventually fall to three laps behind the leaders.
The Federated Auto Parts 400 race had the most amount of cautions ever at Richmond International Raceway. Winston knew his team could capitalize under the caution laps after making a few adjustments to the car early in the race and giving McDowell a solid-handling car for the second half of the event.
Winston made vital calls to do “wave arounds” under multiple cautions to gain laps back and make adjustments during pit stops. The calls proved successful and put McDowell back on the lead lap with just under a hundred laps to go.
After getting back on the lead lap, McDowell had lap times as fast as the Top-15 competitors, and even worked his way into the Top-10 in a three-wide battle. McDowell was able to finish strong and avoided on-track accidents on his way to earning his third top-15 finish of the season.
“We struggled at the beginning of the race during a long green flag run that forced us to go a couple laps down,” said McDowell. “Fortunately, Dave Winston strategized and made all the right calls. We waved around at the right times which put us in a really good position, and when we did get back on the lead lap, we had a car that could run in the Top-15. Our team had great pit stops all night and made great adjustments. We’ve had some better finishes, but this is by far the best race we’ve had. I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”
Winston was equally as proud of the No. 95 Malwarebytes team.
“I am really proud of the whole team,” said Winston. “Our guys did a great job all weekend. We made some great adjustments during pit stops, and Michael drove one heck of a race! I couldn’t ask for a better team, and it’s very rewarding to see it all come together on nights like this.”