LATE RACE INCIDENT RUINS TOP-10 FINISH FOR ...
LATE RACE INCIDENT RUINS TOP-10 FINISH FOR #32 WINFUEL CHEVY
LOUDON, NH (July 17, 2005) -- Pit strategy seemed to be working in favor of the WINFUEL/Braun Racing team during the New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, until a late race incident on lap 195 put an end to a promising top-10 run and resulted in a disappointing 29th place finish.
"It is so disappointing to run hard all day long to get the #32 WINFUEL Chevy in position for a solid top-10 finish, just to have it taken away five laps from the end," a disappointed Leffler explained. "The WINFUEL team worked really hard to get me track position today, and I hate it for them that the car ended up on the truck five laps early."
The WINFUEL crew members were called to action early in the race, when Jason Leffler spun avoiding the first incident of the day on lap 3. Fortunately, the #32 WINFUEL Chevrolet did not suffer any damage, and Leffler brought the car to pit road on lap 4 for fresh Goodyear tires.
"Having to use that first set of tires on lap 3 caused us to have to change our pit strategy," crew chief Todd Lohse explained. "We decided to go ahead and put our last set on during that caution around lap 100 because we knew we could make it the rest of the way on fuel. I knew that it was going to be a gamble, but it gave us track position, which was the best opportunity that we had for a strong finish."
During the race Leffler battled tight conditions, but patience and smart pit strategy helped him to work the #32 WINFUEL Chevy into the top-5. The sixth caution of the afternoon on lap 100, allowed Leffler to come down pit road for his final pit stop of the day, and by the seventh restart of the day Leffler found himself restarting in the fourth position.
"We actually ran one of our best laps of the day around lap 160, but there at the end the car just got too tight and Jason was doing a good job to hang on and get the best finish he could," Lohse said.
Leffler continued to run in the top-5 until lap 178, when older tires and tight conditions caused him to be overtaken by cars with fresh tires. With only five laps to go in the New England 200, Leffler was running ninth, when #17 Matt Kenseth got into the right rear of the #32 WINFUEL Chevrolet coming off of turn 2. The contact caused Leffler to spin and make contact with the inside wall, causing enough serious damage to end the #32 WINFUEL Chevy's day early.
"I don"t know what Matt (Kenseth) was thinking," Leffler said after being checked and released from the infield care center. "I definitely would have given him the position without him getting into me like that. The WINFUEL team gave me a solid top-10 car today, but unfortunately our day ended five laps short of finishing."
The Braun Racing/WINFUEL team will be looking to go the distance this weekend as they head west to race at Pikes Peak International Raceway, located high in the Rocky Mountains. Live coverage of the Salute to the Troops 250 presented by Dodge begins this Saturday, July 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET on TNT.