FORT WORTH, Texas (November 6, 2017) – Michael McDowell earned his best finish at Leavine Family Racing's (LFR) home track of Texas Motor Speedway.
McDowell and the team were confident heading into the AAA Texas 500 weekend, as they qualified 13th at the 1.5-mile track back in April. McDowell made it to the second round of qualifying this time around, and earned the team a 23rd place starting position for Sunday's race. Though he finished final practice 24th fastest, there was optimism in the gains they made throughout the entire weekend.
As the AAA Texas 500 began, McDowell quickly moved up into the Top-20 but reported a tight-handling No. 95 Rohto® Jolt™ Chevrolet. With under 60 laps in the first stage, he was able to find more grip in the car. McDowell led four laps in the stage as the green flag pit stops cycled through. He pitted for right side tires and fuel on lap 60, and went on to finish the stage in 23rd.
The team debated pitting under caution, but decided to wait and make one stop during the second stage in order to make it to the end of the segment. Fortunately, a caution came out just after the start of the stage, allowing McDowell to pit for four tires under caution. He restarted 19th before making his final green flag stop of the second stage on lap 153 for right side tires.
McDowell finished the second stage in 23rd and planned on taking the wave around, as he had gone down a lap during the stage. He was then forced to pit, as one of the lead lap cars decided not to pit, eliminating the wave around option. McDowell began the final stage 25th and still one lap down.
McDowell made it to lap 234 until he lost control of his No. 95 Rohto® Jolt™ Chevy and spun. Though he made no contact and was able to pit for fresh tires, he lost one lap in the process. He restarted 28th and two laps down.
McDowell made it up to 22nd where he was the first car two laps down. He was able to take the wave around during the seventh caution of the race, putting him only one lap down. He raced into the Lucky Dog spot for a time, but did not get a caution when he needed it.
The final caution fell with just over 50 laps remaining, and red flagged the field for cleanup. As the yellow flag fell, McDowell made his final pit stop for four tires. Although McDowell was running Top-12 lap times during the final 25 laps, he ran out of time and crossed the start / finish line in 21st, earning his best finish at Texas.
"That was a hard-fought race," said McDowell. "The last few weeks have not come easy for everyone at LFR. We still managed to get a solid finish. We had a spin there – I'm not sure if I got into some oil or the right rear went flat, but we were lucky to not hit anything. We lost a couple laps there to try and manage the damage, but everyone did a great job and fought back. We almost got to the lucky dog spot, but a caution just didn't fall when we needed it to."