Leavine Family Racing has not had the results in 2019 that its driver or owner believes they’re capable of. None of that mattered this week, as team owner Bob Leavine has discovered Twitter, and been a tour de force on said platform this week, engaging in a number of heated and significant exchanges with heavy-hitters in the NASCAR community:
Vince @vincewelch I have no issue with your statement. Except that neither Kyle nor myself criticized NASCAR or any of their officials. It was simply a rules package that was in question. If they can’t handle those comments we have bigger issues. Thank you. https://t.co/eV7tbTS8sk
— Bob Leavine (@BLeavine) May 7, 2019
Nobody loved it more than the team’s driver, Matt DiBenedetto.
“I’m definitely a proud guy, honestly, to drive for Bob” said DiBenedetto after practice Friday, “because he is a really, really passionate individual. He always wants to be a man of the people.”
“I guess would be the best way to explain why he responds to so many people.”
While the team’s increased Twitter presence has been a huge success for a sport desperately seeking personality, the sad fact is that results have been elusive for the No. 95 team in 2019. That’s weighed hard on the team’s driver.
“I love and live for this stuff so much that even though we’ve gotten some of the results and finishes we have just due to poor luck and circumstances, that it really affects my week and my life at home more than anything you can possibly imagine” said the driver. “Because I really only do and live for this.”
On the stats sheet, it hasn’t been a stellar year, or a year of progress, for LFR in their first season running Toyotas in an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. Four top-20s in 11 races, along with two DNFs, has DiBenedetto 25th in points. And while’s he led 50 laps of Cup competition in 2019 (that’s as many as the No. 95 team led in the entirety of 2017 and 2018 combined), he failed to finish both of those races. For Leavine, that’s not good enough:
To be honest we have not met my expectations this year. But to be fair to our guys we had two excellent cars at the 500 and dega and DNF both races. I think our worst car this year was Richmond. We were running 12th at Phoenix and had a part failure so we have not been too bad. https://t.co/3EdojQMepY
— Bob Leavine (@BLeavine) May 8, 2019
Nor is it for his driver.
“I’m not pleased with our results because of random circumstances” said DiBenedetto of his campaign to date. “We’ve had great runs, great speeds in our cars, but some of our results make you want to bash your head against the wall just because it doesn’t reflect how good we are as a team.”
“[The] Daytona 500, you know, you lead the most laps, we had a dominant car and we crashed. At Phoenix, we had a good car running 10th-12th and [had an] alternator issue. You look at the results, and we’re you know, 27th or something (editor’s note, it was 28th). Many instances like that, even last week we had to start at the tail, probably had a car that could run top 10 and got stuck in 20th. I could go on and on.”
Despite the challenges, listening to DiBenedetto speak this afternoon it’s obvious that all these challenges are still improvement for a driver who’s spent his career in the literal dredges of the Cup garage, running with the perpetually underfunded BK Racing and Go FAS Racing organizations before landing with LFR this offseason.
“My job is just a whole lot busier, a whole lot more going on between being at TRD a lot and being at the shop a ton and going through data, I’m pretty much seven days a week this year, which is what I like” responded DiBenedetto when questioned about his transition to LFR and the Toyota camp for 2019. Perhaps the biggest transition though, was recognizing just how much speed has been in the No. 95 car this season, and what could mean as soon as next week for the organization…racing for a win. After all, next weekend is the All-Star Race…and DiBenedetto is in the top 10 for the fan vote. But in case that doesn’t pan out, there is a backup plan.
“I think for sure we have a shot at racing our way in” said DiBenedetto when asked about the upcoming Open race. “A very good shot, based on the speed our cars had consistently this year.”
With an experienced team and an alliance with a superteam, DiBenedetto had answers for just about everything speaking to the media this Friday. Except one. When asked whether LFR, who as the only team allied with JGR in 2019 has enjoyed increased technical support (and at least several races of sponsorship based on the paint schemes and DiBenedetto’s firesuit), would be expanding to two cars come 2020, the driver hesitated to answer, citing his singular focus on the No. 95 team.
Nothing to fear…his owner had the answer. On Twitter:
Sorry but there are too many parts to that puzzle for me to answer now. https://t.co/Qp621HfUex
— Bob Leavine (@BLeavine) May 10, 2019