By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Leavine Family Racing will end its 10-year run in the NASCAR Cup Series at the conclusion of the 2020 season, team owner Bob Leavine said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Citing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on his team, Leavine noted that the organization would not be in a position to compete after this season, leading to the sale of the No. 95 team to a new owner and his exit from the sport when the final checkered flag falls at season’s end.
“It’s with great sadness today that I announce the sale of the Leavine Family Racing team, assets and charter,” Leavine said. “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.
“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 a part of the Leavine Family Racing family over the last decade.”
LFR first entered the sport back in 2011, fielding entries for all three manufacturers over the years, running Fords from 2011 to 2015, Chevrolets from 2016 to 2018, and flying the Toyota banner for the past two seasons after entering into a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Rookie Christopher Bell currently drives for the team, sitting 23rd in points through the first 20 races of the year. It has been an up and down season for the 25-year old from Norman, Oklahoma, scoring just one top-five finish and five top-10 finishes on the year, with his best result coming in the form of a fourth-place finish at Pocono.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Cup series for LFR, and I’m focused on finishing the year strong and going after not only my first win, but the teams as well,” Bell said in a tweet shortly after news of the sale broke.
The best finish in team history came last year, when Matt DiBenedetto came agonizingly close to claiming the team’s first win at the Bristol Night Race, bringing home a runner-up finish after leading 93 laps, falling to Denny Hamlin in the closing laps of the race.
Aside from Bell and DiBenedetto, the roster of other drivers that have piloted LFR entries over the years include David Starr, Scott Speed, Blake Koch, Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon, Kasey Kahne, and Regan Smith.
“It’s probably one of the most difficult things I’ve encountered and had to do because of our 10 years,” Leavine added when asked about the emotions of the day. “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. 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 and I cannot rape, pillage and plunder. It’s like having two kids, and you have to decide which one lives, and which one doesn’t. It’s gut wrenching.
“Everybody here, from our partners, Matt, Sharon, Michael, the family, Jeremy’s family, everybody in here is family. To have to stand in front this morning and tell them what we were doing and how we want to go out – with our heads held high – that sounds real good and reads really good, but it’s difficult to do.”