INTERVIEW

Q&A with NASCAR owner Bob Leavine

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Today, I was lucky enough to talk to the owner of the Leavine Family Racing team, Bob Levaine. We talked about how his team got their start back in 2011 and what kind of expectations Bob and his wife Sharon have after forming a new partnership with Joe Gibbs racing.

Q: So overall, You guys are still a relatively new team, starting back in 2011. Can you give us a little bit of a background about the beginning and what kind of drew you to NASCAR?

Leavaine: Well it has really been an interesting cycle, In the first five years we were just part-time and I got into it to help our first driver David Starr and of course with me being as competitive as I am, I really liked it so we brought in Scott Speed to drive for us our second year and then Michael McDowell for our first full time season and it has just kind of went from there.

Q: There were some new changes this year to NASCAR; one of the changes that many have been critical of has been the new qualifying format. Overall are you guys happy with some of the tweaks we saw NASCAR announced earlier this week?

Leavaine: What they did requires more oversight, but in the end It's still going to come down to the draft and if it comes down to the luck of the draw. I would prefer with what we were doing before with single car runs because a lot of these teams work too hard and spend a lot of money for qualifying and they don't get the lap they deserve.

Q: So there have been some major changes including moving the finale to ISM Raceway and moving Daytona to the final race of the regular season. Overall are there any changes you would like to see NASCAR make when it comes to scheduling?

Leavaine: If I was going to do anything with the schedule why not let them run the road course at Indy? I think that is really cool course and I think that a lot of the fans would come. It would be something different like with what we saw in Charlotte so that would be one of the things I would like to do. Also, I'd like to see them rotate their season finale and maybe make them bid on like they do the Super Bowl.

Q: And Finally I have to ask the question a lot of people have been wondering, with this new alliance with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, is there a possibility of expansion at LFR in the near future?

Leavine: Yes. Absolutely. We were going to run two cars for this year with Daniel Suarez and a driver we selected but that didn't work out but overall, I am happy with how everything turned out. I am glad we got Matt DiBenedetto because he wanted to come here but yes we are working on expanding for 2020 right now. It's just a matter of sponsorship because we can put the people on it and we have the organization and Toyota Racing Development will support that so yes we are working to expand.

You can hear the whole interview below.

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets his first win of 2019.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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