Jason Leffler eyes second Daytona victory for Ultra Motorsports. NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Preseason Thunder continues. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 12, 2003) - Jason Leffler, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "bridesmaid" of 2002, served notice ...
Jason Leffler eyes second Daytona victory for Ultra Motorsports.
NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Preseason Thunder continues.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 12, 2003) - Jason Leffler, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "bridesmaid" of 2002, served notice Sunday he intends to be an early contender for his first victory as NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Preseason Thunder continued at Daytona International Speedway.
Leffler (No. 2 Team ASE Racing/Carquest Dodge), posted a fast lap of 182.386 mph around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, claiming top speed honors in the second day of testing for the Feb. 14 Florida Dodge Dealers 250.
Leffler's speed was fractionally quicker than that of Chad Chaffin (No. 18 Dickies Dodge). The new driver of the Bobby Hamilton Racing team that won the past two Florida Dodge Dealer 250 races was clocked at 182.024.
Third and fourth fastest on Sunday - both in morning tests - were Leffler teammate Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge) and Hamilton, whose Saturday speed of 182.419 remains fastest overall in single-truck runs.
Dodge recorded the five fastest speeds, ahead of expected Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Carl Edwards whose No. 63 Mittler Machine and Tool Ford was sixth with a 179.903, turned Sunday afternoon.
During a two-hour drafting session that completed Sunday's trials, Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford) had the fastest lap at 186.563. Bill Lester (No. 8 Dodge Motorsports Dodge) was next at 186.332.
Sophomore competitor Leffler - who six times finished second last season without a victory - hopes to back up Ultra Motorsports' 2000 victory. Mike Wallace, then driving a Ford for series pioneers Jim and Marlene Smith, won Daytona's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
An eight-time Bud Pole winner in 2002, Leffler came painfully close to victory on a number of occasions before finishing fourth in series championship standings. He placed 11th, leading six laps, in last season's Florida Dodge Dealers 250.
"It's a good start and we'll go home and fine tune it and make a few little changes if we have to," said the 27-year-old former open-wheel champion after his team completed its Daytona test time early and headed back to its shops in Mooresville, N.C. "This team puts a lot of emphasis on doing well here. It's just like the Daytona 500 for us.
"It would be nice to be sitting in victory lane."
Leffler is well aware that Smith's No. 2 truck failed to visit victory lane in 2002 for the first time in eight NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series campaigns. Winning is the top priority for Leffler and new crew chief Buddy "Red Dog" Barnes.
"It was a bizarre season. We were fast everywhere," said Leffler. "I made some mistakes and took us out of some races that we probably had a chance of winning. If you look at it, we could have had an awesome season.
"That's what keeps everybody pumped up over the wintertime, even though we didn't win a race."
The three-day NASCAR Preseason Thunder tests winds up Monday with a full day of drafting on the schedule. The NASCAR Winston Cup teams return Jan. 14-16, with the second round reserved for teams with owners who had even-numbered finishes in the 2002 owners points. Last week's three-day test run was for the "odds".
NEWS OF NOTE
* Gordon first in Raybestos Rookie lineup * Alabama competitor Tina Gordon (No. 66 Post-It Dodge) is first to file her candidacy for 2003 Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year honors. The Hills Bros. All Pro Series veteran of NASCAR Touring experienced a rough start at Daytona Saturday when a suspension failure sent her truck into the Turn 2 wall. Gordon, however, rebounded to pronounce the test a success. "We're running pretty decent," said Gordon, who competed in last year's Daytona ARCA 200 race. "We were just coming down here to try to get a good starting point and see how things work out. I want to be able to go out there and win Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year and finish in the top 15 in points."
* SPEED Channel revs up Craftsman Truck coverage *SPEED Channel, the new, exclusive television broadcast home of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, revs up its coverage with a 30-minute special focusing on Daytona's Preseason Thunder. Highlights of the three-day test can be seen at 6:30 p.m. ET Monday on SPEED. The network has scheduled a Jan. 20 news conference in Charlotte to announce its team of broadcasters for this season's 2003 schedule.
* Looking for manufacturer teammates * Terry Cook (No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel Ford) hopes to hook up with Crawford to some drafting practice on the final day of testing Monday. "If you can find somebody you seem top work well with then you might pull out of line but that's more important with single-truck teams," said Cook, a top-10 finisher in each of the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 races. "I can remember when we ran a Chevrolet and I worked well with Rick Crawford who was in a Ford. We seemed to work well together * we seem to have mutual respect for each other."
* Speeds down at Daytona * Reduction in the size of hoses feeding air to a truck's carburetor, in part, has cut speeds during this season's test from 2002 levels. Musgrave sat on the Bud Pole a year ago with a speed of 187.215 - nearly five miles per hour faster than the best single lap speed recorded Saturday and Sunday. "For the big picture, it's better," said Hamilton. "NASCAR is fighting tooth and nail not to put restrictor plates on these things because the plate engines' (cost is) so high. I applaud them for trying to do it in a cheap way." The cost of the hoses - a pair of two-inch units instead of a single, three-inch hose under 2002 rules - is approximately $20 each. Hamilton estimated a horsepower reduction of 65.
NASCAR PRESEASON THUNDER/TRUCKS DAY 2
* Etc * The Daytona International Speedway has an online media center available. The Speedway's online media center is your best source for Speedweeks testing and events, photos, timing and scoring information, quotes, video news release schedules and much more. Go to http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/media. All the testing sessions are open and free to the public with access to a section of the Oldfield Grandstand available through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.
Tickets to Speedweeks 2003 events are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.