Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) outlasted the Arizona heat during the Camping World 500 to earn their third Top-25 finish of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.
LFR started the weekend out strong ending the first practice session in 19th at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). The team, however, just missed an opportunity to advance into the second round of qualifying on Friday and secured a 25th place starting position.
During the final two practice sessions on Saturday, the team struggled to find the speed they needed for the race, but knew they could get the No. 95 WRL Chevrolet SS where it needed to be for the race on Sunday.
At the beginning of the Camping World 500, McDowell quickly moved up two positions from his 25th place starting position within the first ten laps.
When the first caution came out, McDowell reported his car was too loose but later became too tight towards the end of stage one of the race. A slow pit stop then forced McDowell to start the second stage further back than anticipated.
The beginning of the second stage started with a three-wide battle that McDowell survived and made through unscathed. McDowell knew he was faster than the first few cars in front of him but just needed to get by them.
During the final stage of the Camping World 500, McDowell made it as far as 23rd place before a pit stop mishap cost him a few spots. During the pit stop, the No. 78 car ran over the LFR pit crew’s air hose, pulling the air gun out of the hands of the rear tire changer and forcing McDowell to make an additional pit stop to replace the missing lug nuts. McDowell was able to work his way back into the Top-25 and ultimately crossed the finish line in 24th place.
“We had an okay run today,” said McDowell. “We weren’t great, but we ran where we thought we were in practice. Qualifying wasn’t exactly what we wanted. We thought we could run in the Top-20 there but just barely missed the second round. It was still a good solid day for our team. We are going to keep rolling and finish out the West Coast swing strong at Fontana.”
Next up for LFR and McDowell is Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26 at 3:30PM ET where LFR will sport a new paint scheme for the final race of the West Coast swing.