Leavine Family Racing’s demise is a story we’ve seen all too recently in racing. One year after winning the NASCAR Cup Series title, Furniture Row Racing closed up shop the following year. The economics of the sport made it impossible for Barney Visser to continue running his team at a competitive level.
Bob Leavine found himself in the same position this season. His #95 finally had the technical alliance to make themselves a contender week in and week out. A year removed from Matt DiBenedetto nearly winning the Bristol night race for the team, LFR looked poised to take that step in 2020 with highly touted rookie Christopher Bell.
On Tuesday Bob Leavine announced that he has sold his teams charter and assets. Following Phoenix this fall the team will close up shop and the Leavine family will exit NASCAR with a quote, “bad taste” in their mouth.
During his teleconfrence yesterday that a number of factors contributed to the downfall of his team. On top of what he called a “bad business model” the COVID-19 pandemic hit his business outside of racing hard. When you factor in his alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR’s decision to push the Gen 7 car off until 2022 ultimately doomed the #95 team.
We’ve heard about NASCAR’s business model for a few years now. As more sponsors leave the sport while costs continue to rise and Rob Kauffman’s charter system, NASCAR has become unsustainable for most.
For 2020, Leavine Family Racing formed an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing to field the #95 for Christopher Bell. Part of that alliance gave them Bell, while the other gave them cars and support from Joe Gibbs Racing. That alliance comes at a cost. That cost was the main factor Furniture Row Racing folded, and while it might not be the main reason it was certainly a contributing factor.
Racing is a business. While some will say they should end the alliance to save money, that’s not the easiest option. LFR wants to be competitive, being competitive attracts more sponsors. It’s hard to sell sponsors on taking a step back performance wise.
The Gen 7 car was supposed to alleviate some of the financial pressure on LFR and eliminate their dependency on JGR to be competitive. If NASCAR stuck to their original plan to introduce the new car in 2021, there’s a chance LFR survives. Instead the introduction was pushed to 2022.
Losing Leavine Family Racing is a blow for the sport in the same way losing Furniture Row Racing was. NASCAR can’t afford to lose team owners who genuinely want to be in the sport. Not only do they want to be here, they want to be competitive.
NASCAR has lost two good owners while gaining an owner in Spire who appears to have no desire to enhance their performance.
NASCAR has a number of issues it has to face sooner rather than later.
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