By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- Leffler points leader
- Sorenson, Allgaier strong
- Martin definite contender
Leffler leads Nationwide points heading to Fontana
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jason Leffler heads to his home state of California for Saturday's Royal Purple 300 Nationwide Series event at Auto Club Speedway at Fontana in a position he's never been in before -- series points leader.
Leffler took over the series driver points standings from former leader and Turner Motorsports teammate Reed Sorenson last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Long Beach native heads into this weekend's event with a scant two-point lead over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the strength of three top- 10 finishes in the four races so far in 2011.
"I always look forward to the chance to get back to the West Coast," Leffler said recently. "To win at this track would be a huge deal for me. Of course, you want to win every race, but you especially want that win in front of the home crowd with your family and friends cheering you on."
Leffler has 14 previous Nationwide starts at his home track, but Auto Club Speedway isn't exactly one of his best tracks. He does have a pole start and two top-10 finishes to his credit there, but his average Auto Club finish is outside the top-20 at 22.6.
One thing that may work in Leffler's favor though, not only this weekend but throughout 2011 -- the race team he now calls home. Since his long-time team of Braun Racing became Turner Motorsports the start of the season, the organization has flourished, and Leffler isn't the only driver reaping the benefits. Turner's three Nationwide Series-only drivers all head into this weekend's race in the top-five in points. Aside from Leffler at the top, Justin Allgaier finds himself in third spot, and Sorenson is in fourth.
Allgaier hasn't made as many trips around Auto Club Speedway behind the wheel of a Nationwide Series car -- only four -- but, so far, he has finished in the top-10 in half of his starts there in the series. He's looking to improve on those stats with a win on Saturday.
"Last fall, we had a really good run, so adapting to the new team here at Turner Motorsports should be fairly easy and hope to get the BRANDT Monterey AgResources crew to victory lane," Allgaier said.
To win at this track would be a huge deal for me.
Sorenson also has a couple of top-10s in Nationwide Series competition at Auto Club Speedway, including one top-five, in seven starts there. He won't be in his regular No. 32 ride on Saturday, though. Instead, Sorenson will climb out of his No. 32 and into the No. 30 for the second time this season to make room for Mark Martin in the No. 32.
Of Turner Motorsports' drivers expected to compete in the Royal Purple 300 on Saturday, Martin is the most likely to find himself in victory lane following the race. He's the series' all-time win leader, and some of that success has come in Fontana. Martin only has two Nationwide starts at Auto Club Speedway under his belt, but he's never finished outside the top-five in Nationwide competition there and even has a win.
"I've had some good luck out in California," Martin said. "I've only raced in the Nationwide car twice out there -- led a lot of laps in both of them and got a win in 2005. I'm hoping that success can continue, and we can keep our winning steak alive and make it two in a row for Turner this weekend."
Martin won his most recent race in Nationwide Series competition, also in Turner's No. 30 car, a couple of races ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If Martin wins on Saturday, it'll be his 50th-career Nationwide Series victory.
The Royal Purple 300 is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, with live television coverage starting at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.