LOUDON, NH (July 15, 2002) - With only a 27th-place finishing average at New Hampshire International Speedway, it's hard to imagine why Jason Leffler would be looking forward the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return to the "Magic Mile." Then ...
LOUDON, NH (July 15, 2002) - With only a 27th-place finishing average at New Hampshire International Speedway, it's hard to imagine why Jason Leffler would be looking forward the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return to the "Magic Mile."
Then again, wouldn't you be excited to race at New Hampshire, or anyplace else for that matter, if you had the potent No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge under you with veteran NCTS crew chief Tim Kohuth calling the shots and the "Ultra Bad Boys" on pit road at the ready?
"I've got a whole new outlook about New Hampshire," commented Leffler. "It's not the type of place I usually look forward to, but this year is totally different. We ran exceptionally well last month at Milwaukee and Loudon is very similar. We had to change motors and go to the rear of the field, but once they dropped the green flag, the ASE/CARQUEST Dodge went to the front. I'm excited because it really feels like our flat-track program is right where it needs to be. The team is maturing on pit road and I'm maturing as a driver. The whole package is getting better and better every week. We've been fast right off the trailer every time we unload. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be a threat for the win at Loudon."
Sounds good, but what about that 27th-place NHIS finishing average?
"I've only been to New Hampshire three times - once in the Busch Car and twice last year in Winston Cup," said Leffler. "I wasn't very successful any of the times I was there, but I never had a car that handled very well. It's one of those situations like Martinsville. I didn't really care too much for Martinsville until I went there this spring and finished sixth in the Truck Series race."
While the Long Beach, CA driver will rely on past experience when the Truck Series takes to the track for the New England 200, he and the rest of the 36-truck starting field will have some adjustments to make this time around.
"I know the track has been reconfigured somewhat since last year, so I'm not sure what to expect," explained Leffler. "I watched the Busch race on TV so I could try to figure out what the difference is from last year to this year. Anytime you have a lot of laps on a particular racetrack, especially one like New Hampshire, you're able to take some of that information back and use it to your advantage. Even though they've widened the track since last year, it still helps to have run there in the past. With my experience in the Busch and Winston Cup cars, I've got a pretty good feel for what it's going to take to find the fast way around New Hampshire."
In an era dominated by high-banked superspeedways, a trip to Loudon is a welcome stop for Leffler on this year's 22-race NCTS tour. The one-mile NHIS layout, one where a premium is placed on handling and horsepower, provides a unique challenge for any driver according to Leffler.
"You have to have a lot of motor, but the truck is going to have to turn really good in the center of the corner if you are going to have a chance at winning at New Hampshire," said Leffler. "It's a flat racetrack and that's the fight - getting the truck to rotate through the center of the corner and still be able to get up off the corner. You definitely have to have good forward bite to be able to drive as straight off the corner as possible."
Last week at Kentucky, Leffler blistered the 1.5-mile Sparta, KY oval en-route to his series-high sixth Bud Pole award in just 11 NCTS events this season. After starting on the pole and leading for a total of 20 laps Leffler held on for fifth, scoring his sixth Top-5 of 2002. More importantly, the solid run propelled Leffler from fifth to fourth in the NCTS championship standings, leaving him just 58 markers behind leader and Ultra Motorsports teammate Ted Musgrave.
"We had a decent night at Kentucky," said Leffler. "We sat on the pole, led some laps and finished fifth. I was hoping to get that first win out of the way, but we'll take the Top-5s because that's what wins championships. Hopefully, we'll carry that momentum with us to Loudon and be in contention for the win again this week."
The New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway will take the green flag Saturday, July 20 at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The 12th race of the 2002 NCTS tour will be telecast live on ESPN and broadcast on MRN radio nationwide.
ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) also has a long involvement in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. As the primary sponsor on the No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST entry, 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.