BROOKYLN, Mi (June 14, 2006) - - Michigan is known as the "Motor City". Cape Coral, Florida native Johnny Leonard heads to the two-mile oval of Michigan International Speedway (MIS) looking to redeem himself from tire issues last season which ...
BROOKYLN, Mi (June 14, 2006) - - Michigan is known as the "Motor City". Cape Coral, Florida native Johnny Leonard heads to the two-mile oval of Michigan International Speedway (MIS) looking to redeem himself from tire issues last season which destroyed chances of adding two top-ten finishes to his resume.
"Michigan is a very special race track for me," explained, the driver of the No. 13 Chevrolet. "My very first start at Michigan was in 2004 and then it was one of my best finishes of my early career and I will never forget it. I always seem to run well there, but last year while running up front, we blew tires which crushed my momentum. Hopefully this weekend will be smooth and I can motor to our first top-ten finish of the 2006 season."
In the spring race last season, Leonard practiced very competitively before notching the 13th fastest lap in qualifying. During the race, Leonard soared through the pack and appeared towards his first solid finish of the '05 season before the tire gave up sending Leonard spinning to the grass in turns three and four. Leonard recovered, but finished 18th completing 99 of 100 laps.
The next go-around, Leonard returned with determination. Once again turning respectable times in practice, Leonard was looking for his second top-ten finish of the season. After qualifying 23rd, he moved quietly and quickly through the pack and appeared to be a sleeper before the tire gremlins returned and Leonard suffered a frustrating 29th place finish.
No doubt many eyes will not only be on Leonard, but the ARCA RE/MAX Series as well. "Michigan is always a huge race. Both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series will be running with us this weekend. Some of the Cup teams are fielding ARCA cars this weekend, which means we have to raise the bar. We were good last year, but we have to be better this year. The race is live on television and all the owners, drivers and team members will be watching, hopefully our bad luck is done for the season and Michigan brings the start of good things to come," Leonard added.
The track isn't the only reason, Leonard loves coming to Michigan. "The fans are unbelievable. They are like nothing I've ever seen anywhere we race. They camp in the infield and they camp hard. ARCA opened up the garage after the race in 2004 and the fans came like a stampede. It was awesome. The fans are the ones that put us on the track. Without them there would be no ARCA or racing without that matter, I appreciate that, I really do."
Michigan marks the sixth race for Jack/Cole, Inc. running entirely under the Mark Gibson Racing (MGR) banner. Earlier this season at Salem Speedway Leonard turned the controls over to veteran owner and race winner Mark Gibson to guide his No. 13 Chevrolet in the right direction. Leonard's "Florida" team ran Pocono last weekend. under the guidance of Gibson. MGR returns to the full controls at Michigan International Speedway this weekend.
"We had some handling issues last weekend, but it was too late by the time we got them fixed. Every time we feel like we are gaining ground and making progress, something happens and ruins our weekend. We won't give up. A top-ten finish this weekend would really make me happy."
"Our performances do not amount to the effort, dedication and determination that our teams have put in together this season. The Mark Gibson Racing bunch are awesome people. They give more than 100 percent every weekend. I appreciate all they do, hopefully I can show that to them on Friday."
The team has opted to bring the same Chevrolet Monte Carlo they ran at Kentucky Speedway (1) and Chicagoland Speedway last season. "This car is a former Keith Murt (No. 19 Murtco Chevrolet) car and we ran very competitively with it last season. We didn't have the best results because of circumstances beyond our control, but this is one of my favorite cars and I'm looking forward to climbing back in it."
The No. 13 Jack/Cole, Inc. team is still seeking a title sponsor for this weekend's race, but the team will continue to press forward with or without the additional backing. However, the car will adorn theack/Cole, Inc. and Dirt Mafia logos which are commercial companies owned by Leonard.
"We are still looking for sponsorship, but I want to give my new companies some exposure. Jack/Cole, Inc is named after my two children,ack and Cole. My boys are the most important thing to me in my life.JThey are my world. I'm proud to have a company in their name and it's already becoming very successful. Dirt Mafia is another new company for me and obviously, it's a dirt company. While we are hunting sponsorship, we'll sports those logos until we can make a great sponsor a home. We have the caliber to perform well, we just need some luck."
ack/Cole, Inc. is excited to have pme (Pro Motor Engineering), Tex Racing Enterprises, Affordable Roofing, Casite and Best Glove as associate sponsors for the first of two races in the "Irish Hills" this season.
"Every little bit helps, that's the attitude for our race team. I'm thankful to our associate sponsors for helping us out this week. They are all well-known companies, and hopefully we'll get them some welcome exposure during the race."
Rolling into Michigan, Leonard, a successful businessman by trade has 40 ARCA RE/MAX Series starts to his resume with a career best finish of ninth at Nashville Superspeedway (August 2005) while holding two additional top ten finishes at Pocono International Raceway (July 2005) and Toledo Speedway (September 2005). He also has a career best Superspeedway qualifying effort of seventh at Kentucky Speedway (July 2005) followed by a career best short track time trials effort of eighth at Lake Erie Speedway (August 2005). ack/Cole, Inc. is still actively seeking additional sponsorship for the No. 13 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Interested parties can contact the team at email@example.com or 239-458-4968.
The Hantz Group 200 (200 miles/100 laps) is the eighth of 23 events on the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule. Practice begins Thursday, June 15th with a two hour (10:00am-12:00pm EST) session planned. Pork pole qualifying is on tap Thursday afternoon (3:00pm EST) with the race set to take the green flag Friday, June 16th. The race will be televised live on SPEED, beginning at 5:00pm. In addition to SPEED, arcaracing.com will have all the latest news and results from the track.