Jeremy Lange

Leavine Family Racing to have enhanced alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing

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The President of Toyota Racing Development said Tuesday that the enhanced alliance next season between Leavine Family Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and TRD will be “akin to what we had between TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing a couple of years ago.”

Furniture Row Racing won the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship with Martin Truex Jr.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, made the comment on a conference call with reporters after news that Christopher Bell will move to Cup in 2020 and drive for Leavine Family Racing. Bell will replace Matt DiBenedetto.

As for what will be done in the expanded relationship, Wilson said: “Enhanced hardware, enhanced communication, sharing of information, the tools that TRD provides will be further enhanced, time available on our sim (simulator) and everything that TRD brings to the table is going to be the same as what it has been with Joe Gibbs Racing.”

Wilson said the move to strengthen the alliance between the two teams is because of Bell.

“It is a huge priority for us to make sure Christopher has what he needs to succeed,” Wilson said. “This is a complete package. It is not being done piecemeal, and you can tell that by the names, having (crew chief Jason Ratcliff) follow Christopher over., etc. All those things are designed to give him the best opportunity to succeed and continue to meet and exceed our expectations.”

Toyota has invested heavily in Bell’s development since signing the dirt racer to a development contract in 2013.

Bell rewarded Toyota by winning the Truck title in 2017 and making the Xfinity playoffs each of the past two years. He has won 22.1% of his Xfinity starts (15 of 68) and his victory last week at Richmond moved him into the second round of the Xfinity playoffs.

The improved alliance should elevate Leavine Family Racing to a top-tier program in Cup. That is a reward to car owner Bob Leavine for his persistence. His single-car team made its Cup debut in 2011, did not run a full season until 2016 and had to buy a charter since it did not qualify for one.

I can remember Jeremy (Lange, president of LFR) and I coming out of a meeting (about charters) and wondering how in the world we were going to continue to race,” Leavine said. “We didn’t, we weren’t given a charter. It’s been a long haul and a difficult one.

“Our biggest step and our biggest improvement was going to Toyota (beginning with this season) and the relationship base from David, Tyler (Gibbs) and Jack (Irving) and all the people at Toyota and TRD and then Coach (Joe Gibbs) and JGR and all of the support over there, that really was a breath of fresh air because it really was getting difficult to compete and try to get better.”

Levine Family Racing has an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing this season but it is not to the level that Furniture Row Racing had with JGR because Leavine Family Racing could not afford to pay for that type of support this year.

Along with the alliance, the team will benefit from additional sponsorship. Rheem will join Bell at Levine Family Racing and be a primary sponsor, along with Procore, which already with the team. Leavine said that his organization is further ahead on sponsorship for next season than it started this year.

 

Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing hires Dave Winston as crew chief

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The recent merger of Circle Sport and Leavine Family Racing is starting to pay dividends.

The combined Concord, North Carolina-based team announced Thursday that it has named NASCAR veteran Dave Winston as crew chief for the No. 95 Chevrolet SS driven by Michael McDowell.

In addition, Jeremy Lange has been promoted to Vice President of Race Team Operations. He previously had directed marketing efforts for Leavine Family Racing the past two seasons.

Winston will oversee operation of the No. 95, which plans on racing the entire Sprint Cup schedule this season. Winston has spent 15 years in NASCAR, starting as a team engineer with Roush Fenway Racing.

He’s worked with a number of drivers including Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray. According to a team release, Winston has been a part of 18 wins, seven poles, 51 top-5 and 118 top-10 finishes.

“Dave is a perfect fit for our team having worked at both large and small organizations,” team partner Bob Leavine said in a statement. “He understands the budget constraints of a small team but knows what is required to make the team more competitive.

“I really like his engineering background as that is a key factor in our alliance with RCR (Richard Childress Racing). … Dave is very organized and has already gained the respect of our staff in a short period of time. I’m really proud to have him on our team.”

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