No one would blame Michael McDowell for being just the teeny bit peeved that he lost his ride to a driver who, his team has said, can “take them to the next level.”
But he’s not. He has nothing but praise for Leavine Family Racing, which last month told McDowell he was losing the No. 95 and Kasey Kahne was taking it.
“The only thing I leave from here is just thankful,” he said in remarks posted by the Racing Experts. They’ve treated me so well. They’ve given me the opportunity from being a start and park guy that’s hanging on for dear life to stay in the sport to being apart of growing and building this organization to where there’s races we’re contenders.”
The team has said it’s all about getting better.
“We look at this as an opportunity to go to the next level,” LFR team owner Bob Leavine, said in a press release posted on his website. “This deals partially with performance, because obviously, Kasey is a playoff-caliber driver. He has a wealth of information being with a larger organization like Hendrick Motorsports, and we think that will help us. We also look at this as an opportunity for marketing to be able to sell sponsorship.”
McDowell has taken no offense, noting that the small Leavine team is putting up a fight.
“In the rest of the races we’re doing really well and out performing teams that have four or five times the budget, four and five times the people. It’s been an incredible experience and incredible journey and I’m thankful for it,” he told Racing Experts.
Kahne does have an impressive Cup series record, with 18 wins, 174 top 10 finishes. But the sponsorship piece of the quote is a bit puzzling. Kahne lost his ride at Hendrick Motorsports, in part, because sponsors Great Clips and Farmers left his car.
Not only that, Kahne said he favored LFR because he wouldn’t have to bring sponsorship with him.
If it’s about performance, that lagged in 2017, too. Yes, Kahne won the Cup series race at Indianapolis, and has three top-5 and four top-10 finishes. But his average start this year is 18, and his average finish, 20.
Still, that’s better than McDowell, who hasn’t won this year, only has one top -5 and one top-10 finish, with an average start of 24 and av average finish of 22.
“What may help our small team more will be the sponsor side and selling a playoff driver,” Leavine told ESPN. “That’s not a knock against Michael, and he knows that, but reality is reality — [Kahne] is a playoff driver.”