Career Weekend For Leonard; BBR In Kentucky Sparta, Ky. (July 12, 2005) - - After a few tough breaks this season, Johnny Leonard and his Boca Bay Racing team wheeled their career best finish together in last Friday night's WLWT Channel 5-150 ...
Career Weekend For Leonard; BBR In Kentucky
Sparta, Ky. (July 12, 2005) - - After a few tough breaks this season, Johnny Leonard and his Boca Bay Racing team wheeled their career best finish together in last Friday night's WLWT Channel 5-150 collecting a very stout 11th.
Leonard proved once again that his Boca Bay Racing team can be strong off the truck as the No. 13 posted ninth in the first practice session. The team backed up a little in the second session. There were no worries though, they were simply playing conservative.
In time trials, Leonard knew if he was going to stay up front and out of all the chaos he had to qualify as close to the lead pack as possible. Piloting the same Chevrolet Monte Carlo he drove in last weekend's ARCA event from Kansas Speedway, Leonard nailed a lap of 32.101 seconds equaling a speed of 168.219 MPH. At the time, the fast lap propelled Johnny to the fifth fastest effort. However, he eventually settled for a career-best seventh.
With a strong race car under his belts, and a very excited crew, Leonard took the green flag for the 100-lap event just after 8:15pm. Sliding back a few positions at the start of the event, Leonard fell into his comfort zone by hovering inside the top-ten. An ill-handling racecar would try to hinder the rookie driver, but strength and goals would persevere. That and Leonard continued to dig.
A caution approaching lap thirty saw a few of the lead lap cars duck onto pit road, but under the guidance of crew chief Ted Kennedy, the team elected to stay out with the thoughts another yellow flag would wave. Unfortunately, that yellow flag never came forcing Leonard to pit under green with several of the other lead lap machines. Under pressure, the Boca Bay pit crew performed a flawless stop; the bad news was that the No. 13 had lost two laps to the leaders.
To the team's heartbreak the yellow flag they were desperately looking for flew just five laps after they pitted. Knowing they had enough fuel and tires to go to the end, the team stayed out and would try and battle the lead group and fight for his lost laps.
Back to green, Leonard shot out like a rocketship passing the leaders of Erin Crocker and Chad Blount allowing him to regain one of his lost laps. Another caution flag waved two laps later with Leonard still ahead of the leaders, improving him from two laps down to one lap down.
With courage back on his side, Leonard had fifteen laps to race with the likes of Andy Belmont, Todd Bowsher, Steve Blackburn, and Chad McCumbee to fight for the position of the first car one lap down. Restarting 15th, Leonard once again showed his strength dicing his way through the lapped cars taking Belmont first, and then hunting Blackburn. Quickly, he passed Blackburn, raced cleanly with Bowsher and aimed for the No. 11 of McCumbee. The two rookie drivers battled brilliantly with Leonard eventually overtaking the position. From there, Leonard drove like a veteran, hitting his marks, pulling away from McCumbee and crossing the line, 11th. A career best finish for the Cape Coral, Florida native.
Previously, Leonard's career best was a 12th at Michigan International Speedway in 2004.
"It was a good night," said a happy Johnny Leonard climbing from his car. "We got in a little bit of trouble when we didn't get the caution we needed, but we were able to rebound. We're getting better and better each week and I think its showing.
Everyone did a good job this weekend; I have a strong feeling that the second half of the season is going to be very impressive for this Boca Bay Racing team."
Car owner Rick Woodard echoed his driver's statements. "We are improving. We have improved tremendously since the start of the season and it's starting to really show. We had a good night. We had a fuel issue. that issue will not occur again. We ended the night with a strong and positive finish. It would have been special to end the night with a top-ten finish, but you can't get much closer than that."
Next up for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is the return of short track racing. The best of the best head to Marne, Michigan for the running of the Request/Sara Lee ARCA 200 from Berlin Raceway. Leonard will make his career debut at the .5 mile paved oval.