Frustrating Finish Again For Johnny Leonard In Kentucky SPARTA, Kentucky (Tuesday, May 16th 2006) - - What do you do to shake the monkey? After an impressive performance in the ARCA RE/MAX Series last year at Kentucky Speedway, Cape Coral,...
Frustrating Finish Again For Johnny Leonard In Kentucky
SPARTA, Kentucky (Tuesday, May 16th 2006) - - What do you do to shake the monkey? After an impressive performance in the ARCA RE/MAX Series last year at Kentucky Speedway, Cape Coral, Florida native Johnny Leonard was looking for a repeat. Instead, a wicked handling racecar forced a 32nd finish on Saturday in the rainy Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150 from Kentucky Speedway.
After scoring a 20th place finish at Winchester Speedway the week prior, Leonard was looking to improve on his season's best performance while hoping his sophomore season was beginning to turn around.
Under the guidance of Mark Gibson Racing, the team opted to bring the same Chevrolet Monte Carlo they ran at Nashville Superspeedway last month. Several adjustments were made to the former HAAS/CNC Racing Nextel Cup Series machine heading into the fifth event on the 2006 schedule. In Nashville, the team battled motor fatigue putting them out of the event.
The first and only round of practice was originally scheduled for Friday afternoon but inclement weather forced a postponement to Saturday morning. With Mother Nature not cooperating, Saturday poised a busy day for the competitors. Instead of just qualifying and the race, they would revert back to a one-day show with all three segments squeezed in a short time span.
Overcast skies with peaks of sunshine seeped through the clouds on Saturday allowing the teams to get on the track for practice. During the session, Leonard struggled. Unable to get a grip on the track, he turned a lap of 34.832 seconds equaling a speed of 155.030 MPH only good enough for 40th best. "Not the way I wanted to start my weekend, explained a very frustrated Leonard. "The car will not respond to any changes and wants to spin everywhere on the track. It wasn't a fun practice session."
The MGR (Mark Gibson Racing) crew fiercely worked on the No. 13 Jack/Cole, Inc. making significant changes leading into qualifying hoping to satisfy the former late model driver and giving him a car capable of running competitively during the 100 lap/150 mile event.
Unfortunately, time trials didn't ease Leonard's frustration. The No. 13 machine was the 32nd car to make a qualifying attempt. During his two laps, he maneuvered a lap of 33.966 seconds or 158.983 MPH.JDespite picking up almost a second from his practice effort, the licensed NASCAR driver still was uncomfortable with his car. "I don't know what to say," Leonard said walking back to his hauler. "The car was better, but we are so far off, it's not our colors. We are going to do the best in the race, I'm not sure what to really expect."
Mother Nature decided to play havoc with the competitors forcing two lengthy rain-delays. At the start of the event, the car's handling was horrid. Leonard was doing everything in his power trying to control and keep his machine out of the wall.In between the rain delays, Leonard consulted with crew chief Mark Gibson hoping to find a solution to the ill-handling automobile. No matter how hard the team worked or what they did to the car, it didn't work. The car was so wicked, that Leonard fell 11 laps off the pace but finished the event. Steven Wallace, son of NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Rusty Wallace took the victory on Saturday night.
Following the event, the team determined the car has some "major issues" and will be inspecting the car thoroughly and will not put it on the racetrack until they determine it is safe and competitive enough to contend for the win.
"It's just frustrating. I know I'm using that word a lot, but it's the truth. I'm not faulting anyone. I think we all know it's the car now. The team is feeling bad, I'm feeling bad and Mark doesn't know what to say. We're just going to have to pick up the pieces and try again in Toledo," concluded Leonard.
Next up for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is the first of two short track events from ARCA's home track of Toledo Speedway for the Hantz Group 200. Last fall, Leonard scored one of his three top-ten finishes of the 2005 season with a tenth place effort.