Leavine Family Racing


JTG Daugherty Racing, Leavine Family Racing win eNASCAR Heat playoff opener

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The Cup Series isn’t the only NASCAR series starting its playoffs this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The eNASCAR Heat Pro League got its four-race playoff underway Wednesday with two races on a virtual version of the 1.5-mile track.

Justin Brooks (mrTRACKBAR33) won for JTG Daugherty Racing in the Xbox One race, scoring his third win of the season. Josh Harbin (ThAbEaR_95) won for Leavine Family Racing in the PlayStation 4 race, earning his second win of the season.

You can watch the full races in the video below. The second round of the playoffs will be held Sept. 25 on a virtual Kansas Speedway. The third round is scheduled for Oct. 9 on a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. The championship race will be held Oct. 23 on a wild card track.

Silly Season scorecard: Matt DiBenedetto finds new ride for 2020

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That didn’t take long.

Less than a month after it became public that Matt DiBenedetto would not return to Leavine Family Racing in 2020, he has a new ride. DiBenedetto will drive the No. 21 for Wood Brothers Racing in 2020 with Paul Menard stepping back from full-time racing after this season.

So, yes, Denny Hamlin‘s words from Bristol were heard.

“There’s many car owners that finance cars that are on the racetrack, good teams,” Hamlin said after beating DiBenedetto to win the Bristol night race. “They got to step up and grow some balls and take a chance on somebody they really believe in. That or they can continue to run 15th.”

Here’s a look at where the NASCAR Silly Season stands at this point:


No. 8: With Richard Childress Racing announcing that Daniel Hemric won’t return to the team (announcement made Sept. 17) next season, all that is left to be done is for the official announcement that Tyler Reddick will move up to take that ride. Childress spoke July 30 about wanting to keep Reddick.

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

No. 95: The only thing missing is the official announcement that Christopher Bell will drive for Leavine Family Racing next season. Expect that soon.



No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.



No. 1: Kurt Busch‘s contract expires after this season but all indications are that he’ll return to the Chip Ganassi Racing team with Monster Energy in 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer‘s contract expires after this season but Bowyer stated as recently as at Darlington that things were moving closer to an extension.

No. 41: Daniel Suarez has said that both he and the team have an option on his contract for next year. He has remained confident that he will return to Stewart-Haas Racing.

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota doing more with less as it goes for ‘Crown Jewel’ sweep

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Sunday’s Brickyard 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC) presents a big opportunity for Joe Gibbs Racing as NASCAR heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The four-car team has the chance to become the first team to complete a sweep of the Cup Series’ four “Crown Jewel” races – which includes the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 — in the same year.

And should Kyle Busch come out on top with his third Brickyard win, it will have completed the sweep with all four of its drivers.

Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 for his second victory in the race in February, Martin Truex Jr. then claimed his second Coke 600 title in May and Erik Jones finally broke through with his first win of the year in the Southern 500.

“That’s just insane, it truly is,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.” “To do it with one organization, to do with so far with three different drivers, again it kind of comes back to having the balance that we have across that organization.”

Jones’ win gave JGR 13 wins through 25 races and JGR is the only team to have every driver win this season. The 13 wins is the second-most all-time through 25 races. Carl Kiekhafer Racing had 20 wins at this point in the 1956 season.

Before this year, the most recent examples of a team scoring at least 11 wins through 25 races was Hendrick Motorsports in 2007 and 1998.

“We certainly didn’t expect to win this many races this early in the season,” Wilson said. “Candidly, this year our target was to win no less than 12 races. We’ve checked that box. Our target was to get four Toyota drivers into the playoffs. We checked that box. My gosh, we darn near had five drivers in the playoffs with the way (Matt DiBenedetto‘s) been driving and what he almost did at Bristol.”

Compared to Toyota, Ford has seven wins and Chevrolet has five.

Those are remarkable totals given that Toyota Racing Development only has five full-time entries in the Cup Series, which includes Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 car. In the Southern 500, there were 16 Ford entries and 17 Chevrolet entries, plus Joey Gase, who also raced a Toyota.

Wilson discussed how Toyota, with JGR as its flagship organization, has found success in the Cup Series despite its low car count.

“This has been a very deliberate strategy,” Wilson said. “It’s contrary to our initial strategy when we came in the sport (Toyota entered the Cup Series in 2007). … At the time Dodge was still participating so we were one of four manufacturers. I simply divided by four and said ultimately our target is to have a proportionate representation on the race track. But circumstantially that just never worked out and what we came to realize and came to appreciate is that having a disproportionate of a few number of cars allowed us to concentrate our resources.

“Because don’t think as we add teams I get more budget, that just doesn’t happen. So again, by having fewer, yet higher quality teams, that’s proven quite successful. It bites us on the speedways (Daytona and Talladega) in the way we’ve come to race on the speedway, just because it does become a numbers game. But by and large you look at the last five years and that served us very well.”

Toyota has two Cup championship since 2015 and has won 72 Cup races in that time

What would it take for Toyota to invest in more entries? Simply, lower costs to compete.

“We as a manufacturer could expand our footprint without necessarily expanding our budget,” Wilson said. “Again, if we can do that in a manner that doesn’t compromise our overall effort as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), then we’re certainly open to that. The other thread to that common denominator is that it’s not just numbers, it is the quality of the teams and organizations. The industry has been talking a lot about this recently and Matt DiBenedetto and his situation at Leavine Family Racing is kind of an example of this. But it’s not just good enough to have a great driver, you have to have a business plan that will support that driver, partners and sponsors and all of those pieces coming together.

“Again, our success is founded upon the strength of our teams and every piece of that team, the driver, the crew chief, the engineer, the manufacturing, all that comes together. If there are opportunities that present themselves to us with quality organizations, quality people and tied to, again, a model, a participation model that allows us to more with the same, then why wouldn’t we consider adding to our fold?”

Matt DiBenedetto taking IMSA GTO throwback to Darlington

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Matt DiBenedetto‘s car for Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN) will throw back to a sports car rather than a stock car.

Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Toyota will pay tribute to the turbo-charged GTO Celicas that won the driver’s championship in the IMSA GTU (under three-liter) category in 1987 with Chris Cord.

This championship-winning IMSA GTO program carried the red, orange and yellow striped color scheme which is associated with Toyota in American motorsports.

NASCAR America: The case for Leavine Family Racing’s change


Jeff Burton believes Matt DiBenedetto deserves a Cup ride, but the NASCAR on NBC analyst also believes criticizing the team that put DiBenedetto on the open market is unfair.

DiBenedetto was informed two weeks ago by Leavine Family Racing that his contract wouldn’t be renewed, reportedly because the team will have Christopher Bell driving the No. 95 Toyota in 2020. DiBenedetto finished a career-best second four days later at Bristol Motor Speedway, which led to team owner Bob Leavine defending his decision to angry fans in a series of tweets the next few days.

“Fans who are on the owner of this team doing what he thinks is best, I don’t get it,” Burton said Monday on NASCAR America. “I’m a Matty D. fan. I respect him, that dude gives 100 percent. I think he should be in a Cup ride, and I think there are seats out there he should be taking, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of Christopher Bell.

“If it helps Levine Family Racing to bring Christohper Bell in, he’d be crazy not to, you’re bringing in a guy that many of us think can be a Cup superstar, to bring him into your program, make your program better, bring in some funding. That’s why (Leavine) is in this. He spent millions and millions of his own money to get to this opportunity.

“I feel bad for Matty D., but I feel great for Leavine Family Racing. That’s what this sport is about.”

DiBenedetto, who will be a guest on the Dale Jr. Download today (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN), finished 27th after spinning from second on the last lap Saturday at Road America in an Xfinity race that was won by Bell. Both were driving Joe Gibbs Racing cars.

For NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte, that result helped confirm that LFR is making the right decision.

“I know that’s an unpopular statement,” Letarte said. “What I thought is in what I consider equal equipment, while Christopher Bell may have a few more races in an Xfinity car this year, he proved to me with his sixth win, at now a road course, that he deserves a shot. Matt deserves a shot, too, but I’m not willing to take it away from Christopher Bell to give it to Matt.”

Letarte reiterated that he believes other Cup drivers should be “very worried” that DiBenedetto could take their seats but also said LFR is making the right move.

“(It) proves that maybe this team is ready to take the next step,” Letarte said. “I’ve had to let good friends go because they weren’t the best possible person for that position. We’ve all made career decisions, so the fact (LFR) was willing to make this big of a decision tells me that maybe it’s the next team trying to separate itself and join the big four or five teams that you see consistently running up front.”

Said Burton: “If Matty D doesn’t get a ride, that’s not Leavine Family Racing’s fault. They gave him a ride. They gave him a shot to show what he can do. Now he’s out there, he’s a free agent.

“Someone should pick him up, but we shouldn’t blame the racing team that said, ‘Hey, we have an opportunity to bring in Christopher Bell that can go win championships and compete at a high level and also bolster our relationship with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.’ We shouldn’t blame (Leavine) for making that move at all.”

Watch the discussion between Burton, Letarte and Dale Jarrett in the video above from Monday’s NASCAR America.