Leavine Family Racing Eyes Manufacturer Change for NASCAR Team
If Kasey Kahne continues with Leavine Family Racing in 2019, he may be driving a Toyota.
Bob Leavine, owner of Leavine Family Racing, has confirmed that his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team will likely switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2019. LFR fields the No. 95 for series veteran Kasey Kahne.
“What I can tell you is we’re 90 percent sure, and we’ve notified RCR [Richard Childress Racing] that we won’t be back, and then, we’re investigating all the other possibilities on where to go,” Leavine told Fronstretch.com about the possibility of switching to Toyota. “Have we visited those folks [Toyota]? Yes. Our goal with this team is to be competitive. Anybody who is in this garage wants to be competitive.”
Leavine Family Racing has a technical alliance with longtime Chevrolet team Richard Childress Racing, which fields the No. 3 and No. 31 entries for Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman.
"Obviously, Toyota is a great organization,” Leavine said. "Furniture Row has done really well running Toyotas. Coach Gibbs has done tremendously well running Toyotas, so it obviously has to be something we look at and see if there is anything there that works out and is mutually beneficial.”
Furniture Row Racing is the reigning Cup Series championship team with driver Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch became the first driver to win a NASCAR premier-series championship in 2015.
“In our talking to the manufacturers this year, Toyota has been head-and-shoulders above the rest so far,” Leavine said, according to an NBC Sports report. “Everything we have investigated and done with Toyota has felt good from one end of the spectrum, the technical, to just the relationship basis.”
Kahne is in his first year with LFR after being released from Hendrick Motorsports. Travis Mack, who came to Leavine Family Racing from Hendrick Motorsports with Kahne, was crew chief on the No. 95 team for the first 15 races of the season before being replaced by Jon Leonard. In his seven races with Leonard as crew chief, Kahne has two top-20s, including a fourth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway last month. The Daytona finish is Kahne’s first top-10 through the first 22 races of the 2018 season.
Chevrolet teams are in their first year with the Camaro ZL1. The transition to the new car has been a struggle for most of the Chevrolet teams. The manufacturer has only two wins this season with Austin Dillon’s victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 in February and Chase Elliott’s first-career win at Watkins Glen International Aug. 5.
Toyota, though, has 11 wins in the first 22 races of the 2018 season: six with Busch, four with Truex, and one by Erik Jones.
LFR and Kahne are in the midst of contract negotiations, working on an extension to keep Kahne in the No. 95 for next season. Leavine said he hoped to have Kahne re-signed within the next month to work on a manufacturer deal for 2018.