Thrivent Racing Team
Thrivent Financial, Michael McDowell and Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing believe it's not just about winning – it's about working together to build a strong, competitive team that delivers the best on-track performance possible. Each race we bring excellence to the track: The finest equipment, the most positive attitudes and an incredible partnership. From the pit crew to the driver, from the team owners to the team sponsors – we are all committed to helping each other succeed. Check out the videos and articles below to learn more about the race team and how we're driven to thrive on the track.
Dave Winston, a Miami, Fla. native, has racing in his blood. Growing up, his dad was heavily involved in stock car racing, and at age nine Winston attended his first NASCAR Cup race at Darlington Raceway.
After graduating from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Winston moved to Connecticut where he worked at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics building nuclear-powered submarines. He also began competing in the NASCAR Late Model division at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway.
In 1996, after realizing he wouldn’t be winning the Daytona 500 as a driver, Winston moved to the Carolinas with his family (wife, Suzanne, and two kids, Victoria and David) to pursue a career in NASCAR. In 2000 he secured his first big break with Roush Racing as a race engineer.
Since that time, Winston has worked multiple drivers including Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray as both a race engineer and crew chief. He has been part of 18 wins, seven poles, 51 Top-5 and 119 Top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a highest finish of second in championship points.
Winston will serve as the crew chief for Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing driver Michael McDowell for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Michael McDowell has been on a racing journey all of his life. Starting at a young age, he's spent countless hours mastering his craft and plotting a course to the top levels of motorsports.
At three years of age he began his racing career as a bicycle motocross (BMX) competitor. At age eight he moved up to the ultra-fast world of Karting, and quickly won the World Karting Association (WKA) Championship. With an impressive 18-consecutive feature wins, McDowell added back-to-back International Kart Federation (IFK) Championships to his growing resume of racing accomplishments.
Continuing to pursue his racing dreams, McDowell graduated to open wheel racing and secured a championship for Formula Renault USA (2002) and Rookie of the Year honors in the Star Mazda Series (2003). He was the Star Mazda Series Champion in 2004 with 7 wins and 6 poles to his credit.
Between 2004 and 2007, McDowell competed in 29 races in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. He secured one win, three podium finishes and two pole awards and finished fourth in team championship points in 2005 and 2006.
McDowell entered stock car racing when he climbed behind the wheel of an ARCA Series car in 2007. In that first season, McDowell secured four wins and earned runner-up in the championship as well as Rookie of the Year honors.
Hand picked by NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and team owner Darrell Waltrip, McDowell was soon piloting the No. 17 entry in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. It would be Darrell's younger brother and fellow team owner Michael Waltrip that would offer McDowell the opportunity to showcase his talents at NASCAR's top level, hiring him to drive a car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008 for retiring Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett.
Following that initial call up to the top level of NASCAR, McDowell has become a staple in both the Cup and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. McDowell has competed in the Nationwide Series since 2007 and has earned 5 Top-5's, 19 Top-10s and two pole awards during that time.
McDowell is entering his ninth season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2016 and his third piloting the No. 95 Chevrolet SS for Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing. His career-best Cup finish is seventh place finish at Daytona in July 2014.
A devoted family man, Michael and his wife Jami have three children, Trace, Emma and Rylie. When not racing or spending time with his family, he enjoys hunting, cycling and going outdoors.
Bob Leavine, owner of WRL General Contractors, LTD., was born in Tampa, Fla.. He graduated from University of South Florida in 1968 with a degree in Industrial Management. Two years after college, while employed by DuPont in Camden, S.C., Leavine got his first taste of racing and the meaning of being a NASCAR fan.
The year 1976 brought a new opportunity and adventure as Leavine and his wife, Sharon, relocated to New Mexico to start a construction company. They relocated again to Texas in 1985, and the 35 year-old business continues to prosper and reach new heights. Leavine's skill and innovation, evident in his success in the business world, are proof of a competitive spirit, and a dedication to do whatever it takes to win.
The world of NASCAR has refueled this family's passion to make an impact on the sport they love. During the 2010 season, as an entry into NASCAR, Bob Leavine was a sponsor in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Sharon was born in Vermont, and grew up splitting her time between New Hampshire and Florida. While husband Bob Leavine was developing and operating WRL, she managed the office and was its chief financial officer (CFO) for over 25 years and is now retired from the family construction business.
For many years Bob and Sharon have bred, raised, and shown Appaloosa horses. Today, Sharon still rides and enjoys caring for her horses on the family ranch. In addition to their admiration for horses, the Leavine's lend support for a therapeutic riding program and for camps, homes, and programs for special-needs children and adults.
McDowell spent the weekend at a Thrivent Financial event, racing in the modified class against local drivers.
The event was held at the Chateau Raceway in Austin, MN.
"I've only raced on dirt a few times. I grew up on asphalt, but I sure am having fun out here." – McDowell
A silent auction raised money for the Boys & Girls Club of Blooming Prairie and Paint the Town Pink.
Michael spoke about his career in racing and why he became a Thrivent member.
Fans had the chance to take photos with Michael and the #95 Thrivent Chevy.
Michael gave the innovation before the night's race and drove the American flag around the track during the National Anthem.
A special thanks to Martha Vrieze, Chad Thomas and the Two Rivers region of Thrivent Financial for sponsoring the event.
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