Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) finished the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 in 29th after the team fought adversity throughout the weekend at Atlanta Speedway for the second race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.
During the first practice of the weekend, McDowell reported the No. 95 WRL Chevrolet SS was handling tight and was not able to get the car to a place he was comfortable racing with.
The unfortunate luck that day did not stop there, as the team missed qualifying after not getting through technical inspection in time for round one of qualifying. McDowell was relegated to a 36th place starting position.
Fortunately, during the team’s final practice session on Saturday, McDowell was able to get a better feel for the car, and was confident he could get the No. 95 WRL Chevy in a good position during the race.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t qualify on Friday,” said McDowell. “Luckily, we were 10th fastest on 20-lap tires during final practice, so I wasn’t too worried about gaining positions in the race.”
During the start of the 500-mile race on Sunday, McDowell was able to quickly gain ten spots from his 36th place starting position before the No. 95 WRL Chevy became tight handling after acquiring some damage on the right rear of the car.
McDowell was forced to pit during a green flag run after the car became too tight to handle. He was then forced to complete a pass-through penalty after driving through too many pit boxes.
After completing the pass-through penalty, McDowell went a few laps down where he would stay for the remainder of the second and third stages. Although crew chief Todd Parrott strategized to gain a few laps back, it was not quite enough to get into the Top-25. McDowell went on to finish 29th.
“It was a rough day, no doubt about it,” said McDowell. “At the beginning of the race, we just weren’t very good. I got a penalty on pit road that just put us behind. We made some really good changes and had speed at the end, but we were already so many laps down just from making too many mistakes. We are going to move on from it. I feel good about the speed we had at the end of the race, so we will definitely take that to Vegas next week.”
Crew Chief Todd Parrott echoed his driver’s thoughts and looks forward to heading to Las Vegas for the start of the West Coast swing of the MENCS season.
“It was a rough weekend,” said Parrott. “We missed qualifying and had to start in the back. The car just wasn’t handling right at the start of the race, and then we just made too many mistakes during the race. The car was fast at the end, though, so it gives us something to look forward to when we head out west.”
Next up for LFR and McDowell is the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 12 at 3:30PM ET as the team looks to start the MENCS West Coast swing strong.