Bad Luck Strikes Leffler and the ...
Bad Luck Strikes Leffler and the #32 Lucas Oil Chevy at the World's Fastest Half Mile
Driver Jason Leffler and the Braun Racing team headed into Bristol, TN hoping that Mother Nature would cooperate and bring sunny skies for Saturday's Sharpie Mini 300. "We had hoped for a smooth weekend, what we got was snow, sleet, rain and Christmas carols playing over the PA system," Leffler chuckled.
Friday's on track activities were cancelled due to rain causing the team to prepare for a full schedule coming into the track on Saturday. NASCAR rescheduled final practice until Saturday morning with qualifying and the race later in the day.
With the track clear Saturday morning, Jason Leffler and the #32 Lucas Oil Chevy were able to hit the track for practice and posted the 3rd fastest practice speed at 125.346 mph. "The car was great, we used the same set-up as last year," stated Leffler.
The #32 Lucas Oil Chevy drew the first qualifying spot and Leffler took to the track. After six cars had made their qualifying run, the rain began to fall. As the rain continued and the skies turned gray, NASCAR made the decision to call off qualifying. The field would be set by owner's points, placing Leffler in the 8th position.
When the green flag flew later that afternoon, it was evident that the #32 Lucas Oil Chevy was a strong contender. Leffler was able to maneuver around his competitors quickly and move into the top five within 30 laps.
Mother Nature began playing tricks again as snow began to fall on lap 33 prompting NASCAR to throw the red flag for an hour and 19 minutes.
When the track dried and the race resumed, Jason reported in a "tight-in and loose off handling condition" causing the car to slide back in the field to the 17th position. The crew was confident that the ill handling car would "come to" Jason as the laps continued and the #32 Lucas Oil Chevy did just that, regaining its spot in the top 10 by lap 119.
"The weather and track temperature played a big part in the handling of the #32 Chevy this weekend. We knew we had the right set-up for this track, we just had to hope the car would turn itself around and the weather would cooperate," stated Crew Chief Todd Lohse.
On lap 192, things took a turn for the worse as Leffler radioed in "right front tire blew". The caution flag flew as Jason brought the wounded #32 Lucas Oil Chevy down pit road twice for fresh tires and repairs to the right front fender. Jason returned to the track two laps down in the 33rd position.
Back out on the track and 25 laps into the repairs, Leffler blew another right front tire causing him to bring the #32 Chevy back down pit road for extensive repairs to the fender and sway bar. "I guess I knocked the sway bar loose when the front tire blew the first time and I got into the wall. What a tough break, this car was strong." stated Leffler.
The crew managed to make the necessary repairs to the #32 Lucas Oil Chevy and Jason returned to the track 11 laps down, crossing the finish line in the 32nd position.
"It was a crazy weekend with so many ups and downs. The guys gave me a great car and I'm looking forward to coming back here in the fall and redeeming ourselves," explained Leffler.