Talladega: Johnny Leonard preview

Johnny Leonard Escapes Hurricane Alley; Heads to Talladega with new Sponsor eyeing Career finish Talladega, Alabama - - It's been nearly two months since Johnny Leonard has competed in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, but the Cape Coral Florida native ...

Johnny Leonard Escapes Hurricane Alley; Heads to Talladega with new Sponsor eyeing Career finish

Talladega, Alabama - - It's been nearly two months since Johnny Leonard has competed in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, but the Cape Coral Florida native hasn't lost his touch, as he looks to end his limited 2004 season on a promising note this weekend from Talladega Superspeedway.

While many teams expect this weekend to be chaos, it won't be nearly as heavy as it has been for the self-employed driver. He is one of thousands of Florida residents who have been bracing and surviving the recent hurricanes that have stormed through the "Sunshine State" in the past two months.

"While I love working in Florida, I'm looking forward to this weekend," said the driver of the No. 13 Pontiac Grand Prix. "The hurricanes have kept my business (Affordable Roofing) busy, but we were committed to doing this race and I hope that we can walk out of Talladega with some momentum on our side."

Leonard has competed in six ARCA RE/MAX Series events this season heading into the season finale. Starting the year off with an impressive 15th place finish at Daytona, on Saturday, they hope to end their season with a bang!

Nashville was next on the agenda, but after blowing a tire in the event, Leonard finished a disappointing 33rd.

While nursing some bruised ribs, he returned to Lowes Motor Speedway looking for some revenge, and he found it. After posting the 26th fastest lap in time trials, he hustled his way through the shortest ARCA event of the season to post a then career best 14th place finish.

Michigan International Speedway was the next venue for the operation, where they pulled out an all-star weekend. After qualifying a season's best 13th, he hovered inside the top-15 throughout the day to nail a 12th place finish, a career best for the former late model competitor.

Thoughts of improving on Michigan's performance remained in the team's books and heads as they headed to the 1.5-mile oval of Kentucky Speedway. While a disappointing qualifying effort had the team in the back, a fast and furious Chevrolet Monte Carlo at the beginning of the race had the team pumped and excited. However, a mechanical failure during the rain-shortened event left the team with a humble 30th place finish.

The JLR (Johnny Leonard Racing) team returned to the 1.333 concrete oval of Nashville Superspeedway in August looking to prove that the toughness of the concrete was not going to keep them down. After notching 19th in time trials, Leonard kept his nose clean throughout a high attrition race, crossing the line 18th for his fourth top-twenty finish of the season.

Now, tackling the breathtaking 2.666-mile Talladega Superspeedway, Johnny looks to accelerate past the season-opener restrictor plate performance and net his rookie team with their first top-ten finish.

"I love restrictor plate racing," Leonard explained. "It's a very challenging race. It doesn't necessarily take a physical toll on you, but a mental one for sure. We started Daytona in 33rd and drafted our way to the front in a hurry, I'm looking to do more of that on Saturday, but in a much bigger way."

The team has plenty to be excited about. Leonard, who drove for respected car owner Bobby Gerhart in 2003 will also unveil a new sponsor for his seventh race of the season.

Boca Bay Builders, Inc. has inked a deal with the driver for the Food World 300.

Founded in 2002, Boca Bay is Southwest Florida's newest premier homebuilder. Their elite group of building executives bring more than 50 years of combined industry knowledge to your home buying experience.

In addition to gaining the new sponsor, the team is also looking forward to working with 2004 ARCA RE/MAX Series champions Tri-State Motorsports and ARCA master Frank Kimmel. "Frank, Bill, and Larry (Clement, car owner) have really helped out our team tremendously lately. They are helping us with our car, along with a lot of guidance. I greatly appreciate everything they have done, and I hope someday I'll be able to make it up to them."

With plans to return to the ARCA RE/MAX Series for ten events in 2005, the team also plans to leap into the competitive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competing in the ARCA companion events next year.

"I think 2005 will be a good year for our team," continued Leonard. "We plan to return to the ARCA RE/MAX Series competing in the major Superspeedway events, while shifting our focus to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for at least ten races. We are going to work exclusively with NASCAR to make sure we take the proper requirements by testing to net the truck experience we are looking for. We also feel like we can come out of the box in February and prove that we are team not to be taken lightly."

The Food World 300 is the season finale for the 2004 ARCA RE/MAX Series. Practice is on tap Thursday, September 30th beginning at 9:30am, with qualifying following that afternoon starting at 2:30pm. The race will take the green flag Saturday, October 2nd, 2004. The Speed Channel will broadcast the race live with coverage beginning at 2:00 pm EST.


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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Bobby Gerhart , Johnny Leonard