BROOKLYN, MI (July 27, 2002) - Jason Leffler turned an all-but conceded race into a barn-burner on the final lap pushing his No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge to a rousing second-place finish in the Michigan 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at...
BROOKLYN, MI (July 27, 2002) - Jason Leffler turned an all-but conceded race into a barn-burner on the final lap pushing his No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge to a rousing second-place finish in the Michigan 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway Saturday. Leffler's late-race charge came up less than a truck length behind winner Robert Pressley earning him his fourth runner-up finish of the season.
"We started the race with a truck I didn't feel had a chance to win," said Leffler. "My crew chief, Timmy Kohuth, worked his usual magic to turn it in to something we could take to the front. The Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge really came on at the end of the race. I think if I could have gotten a fender alongside Robert, I could have made it a little more interesting. It's easy to say one more lap and I would have had him, but he did what he had to do to hang on for the win. As close as it was at the end, it almost feels like a win."
Qualifying was rained out Friday forcing NASCAR to set the 36-truck field according to points. That put Leffler seventh on the 36-truck starting grid and he promptly made a charge toward the front of the field at the drop of the green flag.
By the time pit stops rolled around following the first caution of the afternoon on Lap 40, Leffler was fourth in the running order. Leffler's 'Ultra Bad Boys' pit crew gave the Long Beach, CA native four fresh tires, a full load of fuel including a chassis adjustment and the changes worked to perfection as Leffler bulldozed his way to second before the caution flag again flew on Lap 59.
Leffler again made the hard left onto pit road, this time for right-side tires, another chassis adjustment and enough fuel to get him to the finish in the 100-lap event. Back on track, Leffler, Pressley, Mike Bliss and Terry Cook swapped the top four positions before Leffler finally settled into second and set his sights on Pressley's Dodge with just 30 circuits remaining. The three-time USAC National Midget Champion narrowed a once three-second gap to a truck length and as the duo took the white flag, Leffler closed in and took a run at the lead only to have Pressley block his path to perfection and win by a scant .102 seconds.
Leffler netted $30,800 in prize money and, more importantly, allowed the three time USAC National Midget Champion to pick up one spot to sixth in the NCTS championship chase, just 86 markers out of first
"Robert got hung up a little in traffic and I got through it and that allowed me to close the gap quite a bit," said Leffler of his final charge. "If the race was 101 laps, I could have gotten next to him and who knows what might have happened from there. Once I got within two truck lengths, I was in his draft and caught him just that fast. That set up a pretty exciting finish. We gained some points and now we're only 86 out of the lead with nine races to go. After the mess we were in last week at New Hampshire, things are definitely looking up. We go to Indianapolis Raceway Park next Friday night and that last time I was there I won in an open wheel car, so everyone on this team is pretty pumped up."
Leffler will take the green flag in the Power Stroke 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park Friday, August 2 at 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The 14th race of the 22-event 2002 NCTS tour will be telecast live on ESPN and broadcast on MRN radio nationwide.