BROOKLYN, MI- (July 26, 2003) - NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Jason Leffler started the Sears 200 from the pole, ran in the top-five for the majority of the race, led for six laps and was able to bring his Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge home in...
BROOKLYN, MI- (July 26, 2003) - NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Jason Leffler started the Sears 200 from the pole, ran in the top-five for the majority of the race, led for six laps and was able to bring his Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge home in the fourth position. Leffler battled a variety of track conditions and staged a late race rally, passing Roush Racing teammates Jon Wood and Carl Edwards in the last three laps, to claim his third straight top-five finish. Brendan Gaughan captured the checker flag to post his second straight NCTS win.
"Anytime you finish in the top-five you can't complain," Leffler said. "Fourth place wasn't really the finish we wanted after starting up front but the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is a tough series with a lot of good drivers and good teams. We had a good truck, good enough to sit on the pole, but we couldn't quite get it dialed all the way in. The track never really came to us and we weren't able to make up ground to the leader over the last part of the race."
Leffler kick-started the weekend in grand style by winning the Bud Pole award and obliterating Jamie McMurray's three-year-old Michigan International Speedway qualifying record - he lapped the 2.0-mile speedway at an average speed of 178.037 mph to capture his second pole of the 2003 season. Leffler's record lap was more than a half second faster than the Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge had shown in practice.
"It was hard to tell how much we would improve in qualifying," Leffler said. "When we did our qualifying run in practice there wasn't much time left and everyone started to come out onto the track so we got held up. We never got a clean lap so it was kind of difficult to figure out how much you are going to pick up. Any time that you start up front you know that you have a good truck. We've qualified well and a lot of times we qualify well and run in the Top five and that's all that you can ask for. You're only as good as your last race."
Leffler's top-five finish was the continuation of a streak of solid runs for the Ultra Motorsports team. Including Leffler's first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Dover, the team has reeled off seven top-ten finishes in the past eight races with five of those finishes coming in the top-five.
"The guys have been working really hard lately," Leffler stated "With Dennis Connor coming on board as crew chief it has brought organization to our team. I owe it all to them, it's all their hard work. We were 270 points out of the championship chase and now we are 148 points out - he has made a big improvement for us. We'll just keep chipping away at that. We look forward to every race trying to improve on our points position."
Gaughan's win created a logjam atop the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings. Gaughan and Travis Kvapil share the top spot with Leffler currently residing in the eighth position only 38 points out of the fifth spot. The next battle for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is the Power Stroke Diesel 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The race will be broadcast live Saturday August 1st at 9:00 ET on the Speed Channel and MRN Radio.