It was scheduled to be a big race weekend for Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing as Thrivent Financial joined as a new primary sponsor for the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. But, no one expected to make team history.
Following 500 laps of hard-fought short track racing, McDowell drove the No. 95 Thrivent Financial Ford to an 18th place finish -- a track best for both driver and team.
The Top-20 finish was a successful moment for the driver as well as Leavine Family Racing, a single-car team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owned by Bob and Sharon Leavine.
“That was big for our little team,” said Bob Leavine giving two thumbs up and a big smile at the end of the race.
As the race progressed McDowell kept the No. 95 Thrivent Financial among the top 20 cars for most of the evening. He went on a surge late in the race, ultimately reaching the 18th position. Throughout the night there was positive communication between driver and crew on the radio to work through traffic and the many on-track challenges that racing at Bristol brings.
“An 18th place finish was a great accomplishment for this team,” said McDowell. “The car wasn’t perfect, but we just kept racing hard, digging hard and didn’t get ourselves in a bad position. Wally and the team made adjustments on the car all night and we just kept at it. I’m very grateful for this team and the hard work everyone put in.”
The team was able to keep the No. 95 on the lead lap for more than half of the race. McDowell was awarded the Lucky Dog position a few times and the pit crew gained positions on pit stops as well.
On Friday, the No. 95 team struggled during the two practice sessions and worked hard to make changes on the car to get more speed out of the corners. McDowell qualified the Thrivent Financial Ford Fusion in 28th position.
Guests from Thrivent Financial joined the LFR team in the pit area for the entire race. Surveying the No 95 car post-race, the group was amazed at the Bristol battle scars on the Thrivent Financial Ford. After changing out of his firesuit, McDowell spent time with his guest and thanked them for the support, adding closure to a successful race weekend.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better race weekend to show our fans and new sponsor what LFR is all about,” said Jeremy Lange, Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships for Leavine Family Racing. “We had a great line-up of activities for Thrivent Financial to meet NASCAR fans and topping it off with a track best finish at Bristol is awesome.”
Next up for the Leavine Family Racing team is the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, Aug. 31 where Michael McDowell will drive the No. 95 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Ford Fusion.