Leonard; Florida Motorsports Group A Victim Of "Big One" At Daytona Cape Coral, Florida - - It wasn't the exact way that Florida Motorsports Group and driver Johnny Leonard wanted to kick off their 2005 ARCA RE/MAX Series season, but sometimes...
Leonard; Florida Motorsports Group
A Victim Of "Big One" At Daytona
Cape Coral, Florida - - It wasn't the exact way that Florida Motorsports Group and driver Johnny Leonard wanted to kick off their 2005 ARCA RE/MAX Series season, but sometimes that's racing. After qualifying 23rd last Friday afternoon, Leonard was collected in the first "big one" at Daytona on lap 34 destroying the team's Pontiac Grand Prix and issuing the team a disappointing 34th place finish.
Before the accident, things were looking great for the team. Once the green flag flew last Saturday, Leonard quickly began picking up positions. Drafting his way into the top-20 by the first lap, his Boca Bay Builders/Ft. Myers Marine Pontiac was turning one of the fastest lap times on the track.
"Boy this car is good," said the excited driver by the end of lap two. While continuing to maneuver his way to the front, Leonard radioed to crew chief Bobby Dick, that the car was fast, but loose.
"Bobby the car is sucking up really good, but the car is so fast, the back end wants to come around. I'm going to leave it up to you as far as the changes you want to back, but I think if you tighten her up just a little, we'll be good to go."
"10-4," said the crew chief. "We'll put two rounds of wedge to tighten you up, give you four tires and fuel."
While hovering in the top-15 Clair Zimmerman got airborne on lap 24, causing damage to the catch-fence, triggering a red flag for 39 minutes for repair. During the delay, team partner Rick Woodard praised his driver for his strong early efforts. "Johnny, you're doing a great job, I'm really proud of the way that you are driving. You have one of the fastest cars in the field, just take your time and be careful."
Once the red flag was lifted, pit road became flooded with racecars including the No. 13. The crew quickly bolted on four Hoosier tires, added Sunoco Racing fuel, and made the chassis adjustment hoping to nitch the handling of Leonard's machine.
Back to green, Leonard began his march back towards the front. With guidance from spotter Phil McAlister, and father Tom Leonard, the Boca Bay Builders automobile began thundering his way towards the lead draft. "Bobby, those changes worked great, the car will go anywhere I want, great job by everyone."
On Lap 33, Leonard crossed the start finish line posting a time of 47.8 seconds in the draft, the fastest time of anyone noted during the event.
Then came, Lap 34. Ahead of Johnny, was a huge pack of racecars. At the front of that pack included T.J. Bell, and Ed Kennedy. Heading into turn one, Bell and Kennedy made contact, causing Kennedy to lose control of his automobile and sending other drivers spinning wildly between turns one and two trying to avoid the incident.
Leonard, who was running in 19th at the time of the incident thought he had a hole and began diving for it, but it closed up sending him into another machine, and violently ending his day.
Johnny radioed to his crew that he was okay, and would be taken a trip to the in-field care center to be checked out. "I'm really sorry guys, just had nowhere to go," said the disgusted driver from inside the racecar.
"We had a great racecar, this wasn't the way we wanted to end our day," said Leonard, who was checked and released from the care center shortly after the accident with no major injuries. "We had a car that could have won this race, we were just taking our time, trying to get to the front, and we got wrecked.
I'm not sure what those guys were thinking, they were bouncing around like crazy and I was hoping I could squeeze by before something like this happened, but it just wasn't' meant to be.
I think we'll buy a new racecar for Talladega, the Pontiac is pretty well tore up. We'll pick up the pieces and begin concentrating on Nashville. It's one of my favorite tracks, and we're going to the open test in March, so we all hope to get our season back on track next month."
Next up for the RE/MAX Series is the PFG Lester 150 from Nashville Superspeedway on March 26th. A double-header for the fans as the best of the NASCAR Busch Series will compete following the ARCA race.