Earlier this season, Leavine Family Racing made the decision to end their alliance with Richard Childress Racing for 2019 and beyond. The move was made in order to analyse which manufacturer would give them their best shot at being a more competitive team.
From 2011 through 2015, they were with Ford. In 75 races with them, they had just two top five finishes. They also failed to qualify for a race 13 times.
In 2016, they switched to Chevrolet power and attempted to qualify for all 36 races of the Cup Series season. They’d make every race and have one top 10 finish. In 2017, they once again went racing full time and had their first ever top five with a fourth place run in the July Daytona race. They were back this past year and once again had a fourth place finish in July’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.
Their success was building but they were still a small team trying to find their footing. That’s where the decision to look at Toyota came. It also came at a perfect time too.
LFR didn’t know it then, but Toyota was set to lose their top alliance team in the very near future. Last month, Furniture Row Racing announced that they would be shutting their doors for good at the end of the current season. Toyota, who has a ton of developmental drivers still to come through the ranks, needs a new team to house them.
Joe Gibbs Racing is their flagship team and they’re full. Three of the four drivers are signed for next season and with defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. set to lose his ride with FRR and likely join JGR, it means another seat taken that a young driver could need. The only problem is, Truex, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch aren’t the young guns but they’re still championship favorites on a yearly basis that you don’t want to let them go. Erik Jones is one of the young risers and already in a ride. What do you do with Christopher Bell and others still coming up?
I don’t see JGR letting Hamlin, Busch, Jones or Truex go after next season either. Bell needs a Cup ride for 2020. Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton and others need an XFINITY Series ride in 2020. How can they move up if Bell is still there? That leads to them being groomed by Toyota then leaving for their rivals.
They already lost Kyle Larson, William Byron, Ryan Preece and Noah Gragson to Chevrolet. They don’t want to lose any more drivers. So, the only logical choice is to find a new team to align with.
In come Leavine Family Racing.
They can get in cheap. Toyota needs LFR more than LFR needs Toyota. Just look at what Toyota has done with FRR since their alliance started in 2016. Truex, gave them 16 wins over the last three years. The team has two wins prior. He’s had 44 top five finishes and 60 top 10’s in that same time frame. He’s also led 5,032 laps.
FRR has been not just among the top Toyota teams but the top NASCAR teams since they joined the Toyota camp.
Now, all those resources with cars, engines, etc go to LFR.
It’s a same story of how FRR struggled from a start and park team to glory. LFR has a similar background and now has a chance to be among one of NASCAR’s elite teams.
Granted, we can’t compare Matt DiBenedetto to Truex in terms of what he can do with this opportunity, but what we do know is DiBenedetto has far outkicked his coverage with the equipment he’s been given. Now, he’s essentially in a fifth JGR car.