MOORESVILLE, NC (December 6, 2001) - Three-time United States Auto Club (USAC) Midget champion and former Winston Cup driver Jason Leffler has been named by Ultra Motorsports to pilot the No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge Ram in their quest for the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.
The association will be a homecoming for Leffler, reuniting the Long Beach, CA driver with ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) and long-time friend and Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith.
"This will be a breath of fresh air for me," said Leffler. "Ron Weiner and everyone at ASE have supported my career since my open-wheel days and to finally be able to come home, so to speak, is really exciting. Ultra Motorsports is a fantastic organization and Jim and Marlene Smith have been like family to me for a long time. To be able to work with a veteran team like the 'Ultra Bad Boys' headed up by Tim Kohuth was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I've been spending a lot of time at the shop getting to know everyone and all of the guys are already treating me like I've been there for years."
Like many race drivers before him, Leffler began his career racing go-karts in his native California. In 1996, Leffler was named "Most Improved Driver" in USAC's Western Midget Car Series before taking the national touring series by storm a year later. In 1997, Leffler won the first of three consecutive USAC National Midget Championships flying the orange, white and blue Team ASE colors, stringing together 21 straight Top-5 five finishes en-route to the USAC crown in just his first full season on the tour.
Leffler backed up the 1997 feat, winning both the Midget title and the USAC Silver Crown championship for Team ASE in 1998. The following season, Leffler turned the hat trick to become the first driver in 37 years to capture three straight USAC National Midget titles.
In 2000, Leffler moved on to the NASCAR Busch Series ranks driving the No. 18 MBNA Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing. With very limited stock car experience, Leffler made his mark in the NASCAR community, recording two Top-5s and four Top-10s, tying a Busch Series record for pole positions by a rookie (three) along the way.
Last season, Leffler joined the NASCAR Winston Cup fraternity wheeling Chip Ganassi's No. 01 Dodge Intrepid. In his rookie season, Leffler collected one Top-10 and seven Top-20 finishes, including his first career Winston Cup Bud Pole in the inaugural Protection One 400 at the all-new Kansas Speedway.
"We're pleased to have Jason back as part of the Team ASE family," commented ASE president Ron Weiner. "He's always been a great representative for ASE both on and off the track. We all know Jason is a winner given the right situation and that's exactly what we've put together for him with Jimmy Smith and Ultra Motorsports. Scott Riggs did a wonderful job for us last season and we were sorry to lose him, but to be able to bring Jason back into the fold driving for ASE again, well, we're all very pleased."
As the primary sponsor on the No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge Ram, the non-profit organization has been able to highlight its efforts to provide the highest quality professional technician certification and assessment services at all levels of vehicle maintenance and repair. In addition to ASE's racing involvement, the organization is active in numerous civic, charitable, educational and humanitarian activities.
The seven-year NCTS association between ASE and Ultra Motorsports has produced 15 wins and 19 pole positions. Mike Bliss, Mike Wallace and Riggs have all notched victories flying the Team ASE banner. Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith was equally pleased to sign a driver with the experience and talent of Leffler. As one of the founding fathers of the Craftsman Truck Series, Smith has notched 22 series' wins as an owner, including an organization best second-place finish in the 2001 final points tally with veteran driver Ted Musgrave in the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge.
"I've known Jason for a long time and I've always thought the world of him," stated Smith. "I think it's going to be a great situation for everyone involved. He's polite, articulate and I know he will be a great representative not only for ASE and CARQUEST, but for Snap-on Tools and Valvoline as well. All the guys are getting to know Jason and I know it's going to work out great. Tim Kohuth and Ted Musgrave will be able to guide Jason in the right direction and the crew will give him great stops like they always have. We have all the right pieces in place. 2002 is going to be a fantastic year for Ultra Motorsports."
Jason Leffler will open the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season at Daytona International Speedway Friday, February 15. The Team ASE/Ultra Motorsports entry finished third at Daytona in 2001 and won the inaugural event in 2000.