Leavine Family Racing made it official Tuesday, announcing that Kasey Kahne will replace Michael McDowell in the team’s No. 95 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet next season.
That’s the news.
The bigger question is, though, what will it mean for the small, one-car LFR team?
Maybe just a little, but potentially an awful lot.
LFR as a team is on the rise, although at the moment far from the level of an elite squad.
McDowell is currently sitting 25th in points, a career-best, and he’s had 12 top-20 finishes, with a best of fourth in the July Daytona race. Those are good numbers for a small, independent team. LFR also has a championship-wining crew chief in Todd Parrott, who has already helped the team in a big way.
Still, it’s a ways away from contending for wins and a playoff spot. But the potential could be there.
Maybe the best comparison of LFR’s upside is to look at Furniture Row Racing.
Founded in 2005, Furniture Row didn’t win a race until 2011, when Regan Smith scored an upset victory at Darlington. And it didn’t win again until 2015, when Martin Truex Jr. was in his second year with the team.
We all know what happened next: Truex and Furniture Row had a breakout year in 2016 after moving to Toyota. This year, Truex has been the dominant driver in NASCAR and is the overwhelming favorite to win the championship.
Or to put it in another context: In its first 343 races, Furniture Row won just six times. In the last 27 races, the team has five victories.
Clearly, none of that happened quickly and if something similar does happen at all at LFR, it will take time and resources.
But the addition of Kahne is an important step in making the team better and if, as expected in 2019, the team moves its alliance from Richard Childress Racing to Hendrick Motorsports, Kahne’s current team, that could be a huge shot in the arm, too.
Obviously, there’s a long way from where LFR is today and where it hopes to be. But maybe, just maybe, they could be closer than people think.