Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) earned their best finish both individually and as a team during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The race weekend began on a positive note, as the team recorded two solid practice runs before qualifying 23rd. Daytona has been good to LFR and McDowell in the past, as McDowell earned his previous best finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) at the superspeedway.
At the beginning of the 400-mile race, McDowell dropped back a few spots, but said his No. 95 WRL Chevrolet SS was running well and had no issues.
The first caution of the night fell on lap nine. Crew Chief, Todd Parrott, made the decision to pit just for tires and pit only for fuel during the competition caution.
The second caution flag fell on lap 15, which would become the competition caution. McDowell restarted 14th with 21 laps remaining in the stage. He made it as far as sixth place, where he finished stage one, earning LFR their first stage points of the season.
After pitting during the break, McDowell started stage two in 11th place. During the second stage, McDowell got pinched down and dove down onto pit road to avoid wrecking. He drove down pit road and back onto the track. Fortunately, a caution came out on lap 59, where McDowell pitted to assess and fix some damage acquired.
McDowell was able to make it back into the Top-10 after fixing the minor damage. After avoiding a big wreck with less than 10 laps to go in stage two, McDowell grew frustrated with himself, as he just missed another opportunity to earn stage points.
He was able to pit during the break and earned a few spots in the race off of pit road to begin the final stage.
During the final stage, McDowell was able to avoid a few other big wrecks, but dropped back in the pack for a time.
After pitting for tires and fuel with 50 laps remaining, McDowell drove back down on pit road to fix some minor tire rub. Todd Parrott told his driver he would be right at the window for fuel to finish the race and to save fuel when possible.
McDowell continued to race and avoided multiple incidents before a big caution came out with seven laps to go.
Another caution came out at the restart, forcing the field to go into overtime. McDowell restarted in fifth place, and ran as high as second, before going on to earn his career best finish of 4th place.
“It was a great night for us,” said McDowell. “We had a really fast car, and we ran up front all night. We got shuffled out a few times and had to fight really hard. I’m just really proud of everyone at Leavine Family Racing. We are working hard, and the guys are doing a great job. We brought a fast car to Daytona, and it paid off.”
Next up for McDowell and LFR is the Quaker State 400 Presented By Advanced Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, July 8th.