Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) earned their best finish together at Watkins Glen International after a fuel mileage race resulted in a 12th place finish on Sunday.
McDowell began the weekend finishing in the Top-10 in both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) practices on Saturday. He went on to qualify 14th on Sunday before the I Love New York 355.
After the first few laps of the 355-mile race, McDowell said his No. 95 K-LOVE Chevrolet SS was handling tight in the right hand turns, but he was still able to run in the Top-15 of the field where he would race for the majority of the first stage.
With about eight laps remaining in the first stage, McDowell said he was no longer tight in the right hand turns and was able to make it to lap 16, where Todd Parrott called him in to pit.
McDowell was the first driver to pit and get four tires and fuel. Though he finished the stage towards the back of the field, he was able to restart 11th to begin stage two, as the rest of the field pitted under caution.
McDowell made it to lap 37, where Todd Parrott decided to use the same strategy and pit a few laps before the end of the stage. Once again, McDowell finished the stage toward the back, but would start 18th in the final stage.
At the beginning of the final stage, the team reported radio troubles, as the antenna broke off the No. 95 K-LOVE Chevy. The issues resolved somewhat, as McDowell switched over to a different channel.
Stage three brought only one caution out where McDowell pitted for tires and fuel, but was told he would likely be two laps short on fuel. This was the case with many others, as well. With 20 laps to go, Parrott told McDowell to save as much as he could without losing time. He was in 17th place at the time.
The long, green-flag run resulted in many cars having to pit for fuel. McDowell made it across the start / finish line in 12th before running out of fuel just as he drove down pit road.
“We had a little bit of radio trouble,” said McDowell. “The antenna broke off the car, so nothing we could really do about that. All in all, that didn’t really affect the race, fortunately. I was able to do what I needed to do and the crew was able to do what they needed to do. I think we definitely had a Top-10 car, which is about where we ran. We struggled a little on pit road and lost some spots, but overall it wasn’t a bad day.”
Next up for McDowell and LFR is the Pure Michigan 400, where he looks to improve on his best finish of 23rd.