LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 13, 2017) – Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) earned their second Top-20 finish of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Kobalt 400.
Although the team struggled to find speed in the first and second practices of the weekend, final practice brought optimism to Todd Parrott and the entire LFR team, as they found speed on the long runs.
After missing qualifying last weekend in Atlanta due to not making it out of technical inspection in time, LFR bounced back and was the first team out of inspection to line up for qualifying. McDowell went on to qualify 26th for the Kobalt 400 on Sunday.
At the start of the race, McDowell worked his way into the Top-25 while also dealing with a tight-handling No. 95 WRL Chevrolet SS. When cars began to make green-flag pit stops, McDowell fought his way into the Top-10 and even led his first laps of the season during the second stage of the race.
After a green flag pit stop, McDowell went down a lap, but raced his way into the Lucky Dog spot. While racing for the Lucky Dog spot, McDowell acquired a small amount of damage on both the left and right sides of the car. Fortunately, the pit crew was able to fix it during a yellow flag pit stop, and it did not affect the handling of the car.
McDowell was able to race into the Top-20 where he stayed for the remainder of the race and ultimately crossed the start/finish line in 18th place.
"This week was a big improvement from last week," said McDowell. "We thought we had a decent car in practice on the long runs, but we didn't have a whole lot of speed. It was the same kind of thing today during the race. We didn't have a whole lot of speed, but we had good long-run speed. Everyone at LFR did a great job throughout the entire weekend. Todd Parrott and our engineer, Jon Leonard, made really good calls. We got the car better, and we ran up in the Top-20. We got the Lucky Dog when we needed to and stayed on the lead lap. It all just worked out well. It was a good rebound from Atlanta, and we will have good momentum going to Phoenix."
Not only was the Kobalt 400 LFR's second Top-20 out of the last three weeks of the 2017 MENCS season, it also marked McDowell's career-best finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Next up for LFR and McDowell is the Camping World 500 at McDowell's home track of Phoenix International Raceway.