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‘Snowball effect’ led Bob Leavine to sell Cup team

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Seeing the “snowball effect” of a lack of sponsorship, cost for additional cars next year and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, car owner Bob Leavine said Tuesday that it was clear that he needed to sell Leavine Family Racing.

The team announced Tuesday that it has been sold. The buyer has not been revealed.

Leavine said Tuesday that the team had 11 races available for sponsorship on rookie Christopher Bell‘s car before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the sport in March for 10 weeks. The team’s biggest sponsor, Leavine noted, was his construction company, which also has been impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the virus.

“We haven’t really sold anything and probably won’t sell anything going forward this year,” Leavine said Tuesday of sponsorship.

Leavine also cited a business model that he has been critical of, including the charter system.

Leavine Family Racing was not granted a charter but merged with Circle Sport Racing, which had a charter, for the 2016 season. The partnership ended after that season. Leavine Family Racing bought Tommy Baldwin Racing’s charter in Nov. 2016.

We definitely did not get out of our charter what we put into our charter,” said Leavine, who has not publicly revealed what was paid for the charter. “So, from our standpoint, it is very difficult to say that it was a great investment. It just allowed us to run full time for the five years after we bought it. That’s the best thing I can say for the charter system.”

Leavine Family Racing made its NASCAR debut in 2011. Christopher Bell joined the team prior to this season. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Another challenge was NASCAR’s move to push back the debut of the Next Gen car from 2021 to 2022. Leavine Family Racing has an affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing this season for chassis and support but Leavine said the plan was not to continue that next year.

“We had a whole lot of things banking on the Next Gen coming in,” Leavine said. “Our deal with JGR, our affiliation required us to do certain things. We were looking forward to being a standalone team with one or two cars. So, the pandemic, and sponsorship and how it affected (his construction business), our major sponsor, and then having to come back and buy all the cars again for next year, because we had planned on not needing cars next year.

“It was a snowball effect on multiple things. We saw no way out. We could not afford the affiliation, and what we did this year, next year. That’s what we banked on. Okay, we will do this one year, run good, get our charter value up, and we had a plan. That plan came tumbling down with the pandemic. Then you take a bad business model; it doesn’t work for us.”

Leavine said he lobbied NASCAR and owners in the spring for particular changes, which he did not reveal. When those ideas were rejected, Leavine said he was “very disappointed in what came out of that meeting. I knew that was probably going to be the straw that broke our back. I had to start looking for how best do we protect our team. How best do we keep people employed. A lot of things went into that decision.”

Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan SmithMatt DiBenedetto and Bell.

I really gave it all I had for the 10 years and the last five primarily when we went full-time, and I committed, and I thought we could make a difference and be a good team,” Leavine said. “A responsible and respected team in NASCAR. To walk away and not have completed that, I’ve never had to do that before and give up on anything. But I could not let it destroy our business – a 41-year old business – in Texas during these times, so you have to protect something and that’s a profitable organization.”

Leavine Family Racing announces it has been sold

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Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine announced Tuesday the sale of the Cup team.

He did not state a buyer in his statement. Leavine said in a statement that the team will continue to compete through the rest of the year.

MORE: Bob Leavine reflects on team’s rise from start-and-park car

In his statement, Leavine said:

“It’s with great sadness today that I announce the sale of the Leavine Family Racing team, assets and charter. Since 2011, Sharon and our entire family have enjoyed being a part of the NASCAR community with Matt DiLiberto joining the family as a co-owner in 2016. We will say goodbye at the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Bob Leavine. (Photo by Getty Images)

“This decision has not been made lightly. Family has always been a part of the team’s name and this is how we view every member of our race team — as our family. There is no good time to make this announcement, but doing it earlier allows our people to explore employment opportunities, for next season, to provide for their families. There will be opportunities with the new owners which was important to our decision.

“This year has been challenging for not only our race team, but our industry, our country and the entire world. The pandemic has impacted our economy and unfortunately that’s just not something we are able to overcome in order to continue racing beyond this season.

“Leavine Family Racing will continue to compete through the end of 2020, and we want to leave on a positive note – contending for top-finishes with Christopher Bell, Toyota, TRD, and all of our partners. Thank you to everyone for your support through this journey. Thank you to our partners and fans and most of all, thank you to everyone who has been part of the Leavine Family Racing family over the last decade.”

Leavine said the chassis and equipment that came from its alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing will return to JGR at the end of the season and are not part of the sale.

Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Matt DiBenedetto and Bell.

Leavine Family Racing is winless in 240 Cup starts. Its best finish is second with DiBenedetto at last fall’s Bristol night race.

Toyota Racing issues a statement from Paul Doleshal, group manager for motorsports, Toyota Motor North America:

“We want to thank Bob and Sharon Leavine, Matt DiLiberto, Jeremy Lange and everyone at Leavine Family Racing (LFR) for a successful partnership. We entered this 2020 racing season with high hopes for LFR and the team has not disappointed. While the season may not have started out as everyone wanted, after returning from the shutdown due to COVID-19, LFR rebounded with some very strong on-track performances. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world and more closely, the entire NASCAR family in so many ways and for LFR, that has forced the sale of the race team. We’re certainly disappointed and saddened by the news, but most importantly, we want to wish Bob, Sharon, Matt, Jeremy and everyone impacted the best of luck in their future endeavors.”

What Cup drivers said after iRacing event at virtual Dover

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William Byron — Winner:

Christopher Bell — Finished 2nd: 

Timmy Hill – Finished 3rd:

Erik Jones — finished 4th:

Michael McDowell – Finished 5th:

Denny Hamlin — Finished 6th:

Ryan Blaney — Finished 7th:

Alex Bowman — Finished 8th:

Garrett Smithley – Finished 9th:

Cole Custer – Finished 12th:

Kyle Busch — Finished 15th: 

Kurt Busch — Finished 16th:

Ross Chastain — Finished 17th:

Kevin Harvick – Finished 18th:

Corey LaJoie — Finished 20th:

Joey Gase — Finished 24th:

Tyler Reddick — Finished 25th:

Ryan Preece — Finished 29th:

Regan Smith – Finished 31st:

Parker Kligerman — Finished 34th:

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 36th:

Today’s iRacing Cup race at virtual Dover: Start time and more

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The eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series is nearing its end. The sixth edition of the virtual series takes place today on a digital Dover International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on Fox – where available- FS1 and the Fox Sports App).

Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won the last three races. William Byron won twice and Alex Bowman won last weekend at Talladega.

Here’s the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

DIGNITARIES: Actor David Hasselhoff will perform the National Anthem, singer Blake Shelton will give the command to start engines and Jason Romano, Sports Spectrum podcast host, speaker and author, will give the invocation.

FORMAT: One hour of practice begins at noon. Qualifying begins at 12:50 p.m. The top 10 qualifiers will be inverted. The top-three finishers from Talladega (Alex Bowman, Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece) will start from the back and will not make a qualifying attempt.

RACE: The Finish Line 150 is scheduled to begin at 1:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 150 laps (150 miles) around the virtual 1-mile oval.

RULES: Drivers will be allowed one reset to repair damage. Cautions will be determined by race officials. There will be a maximum of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

TV: The race can be seen on FOX (where available), FS1 and the Fox Sports App. Coverage begins at 1 p.m.

DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE (subject to change):

#1 Kurt Busch
#2 Brad Keselowski
#3 Austin Dillon
#4 Kevin Harvick
#6 Ross Chastain
#8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
#10 Aric Almirola
#11 Denny Hamlin
#12 Ryan Blaney
#13 Ty Dillon
#15 Brennan Poole
#17 Chris Buescher
#18 Kyle Busch
#19 Bobby Labonte
#20 Erik Jones
#21 Matt DiBenedetto
#22 Joey Logano
#24 William Byron
#31 Tyler Reddick
#32 Corey LaJoie
#34 Michael McDowell
#37 Ryan Preece
#38 John Hunter Nemechek
#41 Cole Custer
#48 Jimmie Johnson
#49 Chad Finchum
#51 Garrett Smithley
#52 JJ Yeley
#53 Joey Gase
#66 Timmy Hill
#77 Parker Kligerman

#78 Regan Smith
#88 Alex Bowman
#89 Landon Cassill
#95 Christopher Bell
#96 Daniel Suarez

WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING:

Kevin Harvick: “Probably the biggest difference in iRacing is the motion. They’ve done a really good job of developing their racetracks with the signs and cracks and bumps and the different things that go with them, but with iRacing, I have it all turned off on my Busch Light Ford Mustang. You can feel it a little bit in the pedals and the steering wheel, but for me, with the more you turn off on iRacing, the better it is.”

Aric Almirola: “Dover is one of my favorite tracks in real life, but after iRacing last weekend at Talladega in my Smithfield Ford Mustang, I know it’s an entirely different feel. We finished 18th last weekend after knocking some rust off. It’s going to be tough to get up to speed with a lot of these guys with the limited amount of practice I’ll have. Being a homeschool teacher and dad during the week doesn’t free up much time, so the young guys have even more of an advantage on us. I’m looking forward to iRacing at a track like Dover where we’re up on the wheel the entire race. It will be fun for me to try a new track style and, as always, fun for the fans watching again.”

Cole Custer: “Things from real life definitely apply to iRacing, but you also have to learn all the other little things that are unique to iRacing. This time has definitely opened my mind to iRacing. I think in the future I’ll want to try and use it a little more for races coming up in my Haas Tooling Ford Mustang, because it can be a good tool to just knock the rust off before going somewhere. I’m looking forward to Dover because I’ve done well there in the past, but I know there’s going to be things to learn.”

Denny Hamlin: “I’ve had my struggles at Dover in my career. It’s definitely not my best track. But we can win anywhere, including Dover. I’ll try to get some extra practice laps in to see if we can give the ‘Monster’ a good battle.”

Kyle Busch: “I’ve practiced quite a bit and have been able to improve with where I’ve been running and my results, so that’s been fun. However, sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day with qualifying. We don’t have very good qualifying efforts but, once we get going into the race, you can kind of methodically, slowly pick your way along and get yourself more up to the front and run with those top guys. It would be nice to figure out qualifying and start up front and see if we have a shot to race inside the top-three all day and race for the win. Dover is probably another track where it would be nice to start closer to the front and have some track position to start instead of having to claw my way back up toward the front.”

Erik Jones: “Dover has been a tough track for me in real life, so hopefully we can get a solid run in iRacing there. I don’t really know what to expect, but we ran good at Richmond and hopefully we can take some of what we learned there and use it to have a decent run at Dover.

Austin Dillon: There’s a lot of aero stuff that comes into play at Dover because you’re going so fast. You see different lines come into play as the rubber builds up. It’s always fun on a long run when you can run way up by the fence and find speed. Of course, there’s a bit of an unknown heading into a virtual race. I’m looking forward to it.”

Tyler Reddick: “I’ve had some good runs at Dover International Speedway in the past, including a win in the NASCAR Truck Series, but I’m curious to see how virtual Dover plays out over iRacing. So much of being successful at Dover focuses on getting a good balance in your race car in order to handle the loads it takes in the corners there. I’m not sure how much of that will translate virtually, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain named Most Popular Driver in Xfinity, Trucks

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While the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Cup Series won’t be announced until Thursday, NASCAR on Wednesday revealed winners of the most popular drivers voting in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series.

In voting by NASCAR fans, Justin Allgaier earned Most Popular Driver honors in the Xfinity Series for the first time in his career.

Meanwhile, Ross Chastain was named Most Popular Driver in the Truck Series, also for the first time in his career, earning the honor on his 27th birthday.

Driver of the popular No. 7 Chevrolet, the 33-year-old Allgaier extends JR Motorsports’ domination of the Most Popular Driver award in the Xfinity Series to a record eight consecutive years. Elliott Sadler was the top vote-getter from 2016 through 2018, preceded by Chase Elliott (2014-15), Regan Smith (2013) and Danica Patrick (2012).

Allgaier reached the Championship 4 round for the third time in the last four years, including winning at Phoenix – the 11th win of his Xfinity career – to assure his spot in the championship race at Miami. Allgaier finished fourth this past season in the Xfinity standings behind Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

And then there was Chastain, who has the popular nickname of the “Melon Man” due to being part of his family’s watermelon farm business in his native Florida.

Chastain entered the 2019 season not even planning to run a full season in the Truck Series. But when it became apparent that he would have the best chance at a championship in a Truck, Chastain and Niece Motorsports announced in June he would switch and declare to earn championship points – and a bid for the Most Popular Driver – in the Truck Series.

Chastain ultimately finished second to series champion Matt Crafton.

Chastain wound up competing in a total of 77 overall NASCAR races in the 2019 season: 23 in the Truck Series, 19 Xfinity races and 35 Cup events. He won three races in the Truck Series and a fourth checkered flag in the Xfinity Series.

 

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