DOVER, Del. (June 5, 2017) – Leavine Family Racing (LFR) and Michael McDowell earned their third Top-20 finish in a row in the AAA 400 Drive For Autism after navigating through an eventful race at Dover International Speedway.
After a tough start to the weekend and a 28th place qualifying run for McDowell, LFR worked tirelessly to find the right set-up they would use for the 400-mile race on Sunday afternoon.
Optimism came at the start of the race on Sunday when McDowell made it into the Top-25 early from his 28th place starting position. After a caution-filled first stage, Crew Chief, Todd Parrott, made crucial calls to stay out during cautions, and McDowell finished the first stage in 17th.
After starting the second stage in the Top-20, Parrott strategically decided to stay out during a caution, which put them at the lead of the pack to restart the race.
McDowell was able to hold his ground in the Top-10 for multiple laps until he eventually fell back into the Top-20 due to worn tires. McDowell would then be passed by the leaders to go a lap down.
With just over 40 laps to go in the second stage, McDowell was racing two cars that were also one lap down when he reported he had a loose wheel. He was forced to make a green flag pit stop and lost two laps in the process.
At the end of stage two, McDowell said the car was handling well, but did not want to push it in order to save tires. He continued to race three laps down into the third stage but was able to gain a lap back by taking a wave around during a caution.
During the last few laps of the final stage, McDowell restarted 21st, as the AAA 400 Drive For Autism went into overtime. He went on to pass two cars in front of him and narrowly avoided a multi-car pile-up.
McDowell crossed the overtime line in 19th, earning LFR's third Top-20 in a row. This marks the team's career-best finish streak in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS).
"We definitely had a Top-15 car today," said McDowell. "Our mishap during the pit stop with a loose wheel definitely hurt our day. The way it worked out with strategy, some of our Richard Childress Racing alliance cars were up in the Top-5. We had a solid day, but it could have been better. We ran in the front half of the pack and salvaged a Top-20 finish after going a few laps down with a loose wheel, but that's part of it. It was the best car I have had at Dover by far."
Next up for McDowell and Leavine Family Racing is Pocono Raceway, where McDowell looks to use his road course racing background to continue their streak of solid finishes.