Leonard Collects First Top-15 Finish Of Season In Salem Salem, Indiana - - ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Johnny Leonard believes his luck is starting to turn around after his Florida Motorsports Group (FMG) team notched a 14th place finish in ...
Leonard Collects First Top-15 Finish Of Season In Salem
Salem, Indiana - - ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Johnny Leonard believes his luck is starting to turn around after his Florida Motorsports Group (FMG) team notched a 14th place finish in Sunday's Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 from Salem Speedway.
After starting the third event of the season from 23rd, Leonard remained patience while dicing around with his other competitors trying to slice his way towards the lead pack. A stout field of competition had the Cape Coral, Florida native on his toes as he spent several of the opening green flag laps racing side-by-side.
While Leonard had a good car, Frank Kimmel and Chad Blount had strolled out into another time zone and put several of the mid-packs cars a lap down including Leonard. Despite losing the marker, Leonard remained on top of his game communicating with crew chief Ted Kennedy and partner Rick Woodard about the handling of his No. 13 Boca Bay Builders Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Just after halfway, the team opted to make a pit stop changing two Hoosier tires, adding racing fuel and a slight chassis adjustment to make his machine handle better.
Through the second half of the race, Leonard remained competitive. While not as fast as the lap leaders Leonard positioned himself into a learning curve. Sunday marked only his second race at Salem Speedway and his first short track event in nearly two years. Battles on the racetrack kept the former late model driver active, but he also was trying different lines that may aid him in the fall event from Salem.
Running inside the top-twenty with thirty laps remaining contact between the No. 1 Ford Taurus of Andy Belmont and Leonard sent the two spinning down the backstretch collecting the No. 20 of Ken Weaver. Luckily, Leonard did an incredible job and kept his automobile off the wall, grabbed a gear and returned to the racetrack. Under the caution, the Florida Motorsports Group team led by NASCAR veteran Kennedy surveyed the damage, deciding to bring Johnny on pit road to pull the fenders away from the racecar.
Back to green-flag racing, Leonard kept out of trouble in the closing laps, raced hard and collected a 14th place finish.
"We're very happy with this finish," said the driver following the race. "Our 2005 season got off to a rocky start at Daytona and Nashville, but this weekend is a confidence booster to everyone. We knew we needed to come in here, finish the race and get a top-15 finish and we did."
Leonard added, "I don't have a lot of experience on the short tracks, but Sunday allowed me to get a lot of seat time, learn Salem a little more and have a respectable finish. We're coming to test here this summer. I had a great time this weekend, but I want to come back in September and be a threat for the win."
In addition to collecting their first positive finish of the '05 season, Leonard made a considerable jump in the RE/MAX Series point standings. "It's all about the points," mentioned Leonard. "While we wanted to have a good run, we desperately needed the points to get our season steered in the right direction. Luckily it happened."
FMG partner Rick Woodard echoed his driver's statements. "We're pleased with this run," said Woodard. "Johnny did a good job today. Ted made the right calls from the toolbox, the team worked well together and we have a solid finish under out belts. We hope that our momentum will continue heading to Kentucky Speedway in a couple weeks."
Kentucky Speedway is the next venue for the ARCA RE/MAX Series on Saturday, May 14th. Before the team's head to the track for event number four on the season, ARCA has scheduled an open test for teams on Monday, May 2nd. Florida Motorsports Group will attend the session.
"Kentucky is one of my favorite tracks. We're taking a new car to the test and the race. Now that we have a top-15 finish in the books, a top-ten finish is next and I would love to conquer that at Kentucky."