SPEEDWAY, Ind. (July 24, 2017) – Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) salvaged a Top-20 finish after being contenders for a win at the rain-delayed Brickyard 400.
The weekend began with decent practice runs, but the team was still looking for more speed. McDowell was able to make it to the second round of qualifying on Saturday night and earned the team a 24th place starting position for the 400-mile race on Sunday.
During the first few laps of the race, McDowell reported his No. 95 WRL Chevrolet SS was extremely tight but loose in the rear, as he was losing right rear grip. The first caution flag fell early, and McDowell was able to pit for four tires and a right rear adjustment.
Shortly after, severe storms rolled into the area, forcing the race to be red flagged for a time. Once the race started back up, McDowell raced in the Top-25 until the competition caution on lap 20. He reported his No. 95 WRL Chevy was extremely tight handling while racing in traffic. During the competition caution, the team was able to make a right side air pressure adjustment before going on to finish the stage in 23rd.
McDowell started the second stage in 23rd, before an early caution flag fell. He was able to pit for a full service and restarted 16th. McDowell went on to narrowly avoid debris during a late incident and once again ended the stage in the Top-25 at the end of the stage.
McDowell was able to avoid a few final-stage wrecks, but acquired some minor right side damage along the way. He made what the team hoped would be his final pit stop on lap 117 under caution, and raced as high as 4th place. The team hoped for no cautions, as McDowell could have made it until the end of the race on fuel.
Unfortunately a caution came out, and McDowell pitted for four tires in order to gain an advantage on those that would not pit for tires. He restarted 9th with seven laps to go until yet another caution that would send the field into overtime with two laps to go. McDowell restarted in the Top-5, but got caught in a wreck as the field restarted. He was sent to the inside wall and acquired major damage.
McDowell was forced to pit to fix the damage, and was unable to keep his Top-5 position. He went on to eventually finish 18th, earning LFR's eighth Top-20 finish of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.
"We had a great day going for us," said McDowell. "Obviously, I made a mistake there on that last restart and just pushed the 6 car, and the 2 car checked up a little bit. I got the 6 jacked up, and then he ran into the 2, and it was just a pinball effect from there. It's tough during the last green/ white/ checkered and you're going for it and have a shot at winning the Brickyard. I just got a little too aggressive, but I was just trying to give everything I could and not make a mistake."
Next up for McDowell and LFR is the Overton's 400 at Pocono Raceway, where the team earned a Top-25 finish earlier in the season.