Johnny Leonard Returns To Daytona With Unfinished Business DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (February 8, 2006) - - Cape Coral, Florida native Johnny Leonard heads into the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series opener at Daytona International Speedway this weekend looking...
Johnny Leonard Returns To Daytona With Unfinished Business
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (February 8, 2006) - - Cape Coral, Florida native Johnny Leonard heads into the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series opener at Daytona International Speedway this weekend looking to finish what he started in 2005 before being wiped out in a vicious accident approaching halfway.
"We were heading towards the front when another car in front of me got turned and I had no where to go," recalled Leonard who finished tenth in the ARCA RE/MAX Series points standings last year.
Despite the bad luck last year, Leonard's Affordable Roofing Racing team thunders into Daytona with a 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo bought from Richard Childress Racing which has proven time and time again in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series circuit to produce great restrictor plate cars.
"The car that we are using this weekend is the backup to our Talladega car from last year and that was a good car. We've been working hard to prepare this car and I think we'll have a good chance of qualifying and running well all weekend. Usually on these restrictor plate tracks it's all about luck. I hope I have a lot of luck on Saturday.
Johnny has two prior starts at DIS (Daytona International Speedway) with a career best finish of 15th after starting 33rd in 2004. Returning for a third straight season as crew chief for Daytona, Bobby Dick will lead the team's efforts.
After qualifying 23rd in last years event (50.006 seconds, 179.978 MPH) Leonard has a feeling that his equipment is better which will aide him in the starting grid. "Last year we had a 2002 Pontiac, this year we'll have a 2005 Chevrolet. The packages and bodies are completely different and for the good. In Talladega we qualified 11th with the sister car, so I'm hoping to qualify right in that range this weekend."
"It's important to be as close to the lead draft as possible," continued Johnny. "That's the only way we are going to be seen and have a chance of making a name for ourselves, we plan on doing that."
The No. 13 Affordable Roofing Racing team is still seeking a title sponsor for this weekend's race, but the team will continue to press forward with or without the additional backing. "We're really doing everything we can to find some additional funding for this team," added Leonard. "We have some good cars, some really good motors, but any financial assistance would aid this team to new heights.
Despite no primary sponsorship for the event, the team is excited to have pme (Pro Motor Engineering), Leading Edge Racecars, G-Force South and Suspension Systems as associate sponsors for the RE/MAX Series opener, which officially kicks off the 54th season of ARCA competition.
"I'm thankful for the people and companies that have stepped up to help our effort for Daytona, I hope we can give them a finish they would be pleased with."
The team opted to skip the December open test session at Daytona International Speedway but that doesn't faze Leonard or his team. "Even though we didn't test at Daytona, I know that we have a good car and engine for the race and we'll be okay, I have total faith in my crew."
Following Daytona, the Affordable Roofing team will prepare for Nashville before turning the reins over to the Mark Gibson Racing stable to take over Leonard's program from the remainder of the 2006 season.JLeonard is expected to run in a minimum of ten events under the Affordable Roofing Racing-Mark Gibson Racing banner. The duo will work together in Daytona and Nashville by consulting on setups and driver input before officially uniting as one for the first short track event at Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana in April.
"I'm very, very happy about working and be associated with Mark Gibson this season," said Leonard. "I trust Mark and I know that he will do what's in the best interest of my racing career. I am looking forward to the 2006 season."
Rolling into Daytona, Leonard, a former Florida late model driver has 33 ARCA RE/MAX Series starts to his resume with a career best finish of ninth at Nashville Superspeedway (August 2005) while holding two additional top ten finishes at Pocono International Raceway (July 2005) and Toledo Speedway (September 2005). He also has a career best superspeedway qualifying effort of seventh at Kentucky Speedway (July 2005) followed by a career best short track time trials effort of eighth at Lake Erie Speedway (August 2005).
The ARCA 200 is the first of 23 events on the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule. Practice begins Thursday, February 9th with a morning and afternoon session planned. Qualifying is on tap for Friday, February 10th with the race set to take the green flag Saturday, February 11th. The Speed Channel will air the event live beginning at 4:00pm EST.