NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jason Leffler June 10, 2009 An interview with: JASON LEFFLER HERB BRANHAM: I'd like to turn it over to our senior manager of communications for the Nationwide Series, Tracey Judd. TRACEY JUDD: Thank you,...
NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jason Leffler
June 10, 2009
An interview with: JASON LEFFLER
HERB BRANHAM: I'd like to turn it over to our senior manager of communications for the Nationwide Series, Tracey Judd.
TRACEY JUDD: Thank you, Herb.
We're now joined by Jason Leffler, who drives the No. 38 Great Clips Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Jason and Carl will both be racing in the Meijer 300 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Carl and Jason are currently running second and third in the series standings behind our points leader, Kyle Busch. And Saturday night's race is part of this season's Dash For Cash Program, which of course is instituted by our series sponsor Nationwide Insurance, a $50,000 bonus will be awarded to the race winner, provided he's a series regular, and that means both Jason and Carl are eligible, and both are pretty serious threats to take home that bonus.
Jason, thanks for joining us today. I know the outlook for your team coming into Kentucky is pretty good. But in terms of taking home that bonus money and cutting into Kyle's points lead, how do things look for you guys this weekend?
JASON LEFFLER: Well, first of all, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. I think our outlook's really good. We're taking a different car. We're gaining on those guys a tiny bit week after week, and we feel like we've maybe taken another step this week with our racecar. You know, obviously you won't know until you show up at the racetrack. But everybody is working really hard to get to Victory Lane and to catch Carl and Kyle. I think we're gonna do it here soon. Doing it on a consistent basis is one thing.
But I think that going to Kentucky, we'll have a good car. We got the $50,000 bonus that you mentioned that is another prize out there to reach for. And I think our outlook is looking pretty good.
TRACEY JUDD: You talked a little bit about consistency. That's something I'd like to point out. This has probably been arguably your most consistent season in this series after starting off at Daytona a little rough. You are riding a streak of eight straight top 10s with three top fives in there, as well. I think your team has been pretty consistent, yeah?
JASON LEFFLER: For sure. My cars have been real consistent. Of course, I'm knocking on wood right now, make sure we keep that streak going (laughter).
But Scott Zipadelli came on over the winter. He's just done a tremendous job. We've had bright points at Braun, the 38 team, the last few years, but the consistency wasn't there. Scott has really brought that to the team. Between him and Trent Owens working really well together, both teams at Braun on the whole are doing really good. Yeah, my team is a lot more consistent. My cars drive more consistent. They've been really mechanically sound. And another thing is our pit road, the guys on pit road, have done a great job for us all year long. So all those things coming together, it's showed up on the racetrack and in our finishes.
TRACEY JUDD: All right. Let's now go to media questions for Jason Leffler, please.
Q: A lot of folks wonder about this. Can you explain to the fans why is it that one track, pick any track, a driver runs so well and dominates that track? What happens? Some guys pick the one track and there it is, they're winning all the time.
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, that's a great question. It could be a number of things. For one, it could be the driver particularly likes that style of track or that place and he comes in with a lot of confidence. Maybe he's got a lot more laps there than the other drivers. Equipment-wise, maybe just the way your car is set up and your crew chief, they might have a good feel for that racetrack. It just could be a number of different things.
I mean, you know, as racecar drivers, we're always confident we can win going into every race. I know I am. But sometimes you'll come across places where I don't know if you just remember 'em maybe better than the other racetracks or you just got a feel for 'em or you figured things out, a line that the other guys haven't figured out. And I think that's what some of the discrepancy is. You know, some guys just have a feel for certain places, you know, whether it suits their style of driving or they've just figured it out on their own.
Q: You mentioned a little bit ago you feel like maybe you're catching up a little bit to sort of the double-duty guys. As you look at the series on a whole, is that just you guys or are the Nationwide-only guys in general making a little progress there? The second half of that is, is it possible for a non-Cup affiliated team realistically to run consistently every week with those guys?
JASON LEFFLER: Well, to answer your first question there, I think as a whole maybe some of the top Nationwide-only teams are catching the big Cup teams, just for the fact, you know, they're concentrating on the COT car and we're concentrating on our Nationwide car, and they're totally different now. Maybe some of the technology, you know, it's spread apart, some of the things don't apply. Some things do, though, too.
I think if you look at Braun as a whole, we've always done a really good job at competing against the Cup teams - maybe not on a consistent basis like we have this year. But if you look at the 32 car with Trent Owens, and then you look at us in the 38 car, we've had bright spots, you know, maybe once or twice a month we've been able to run up in the top five or top 10 and run with those guys.
But I do realistically think a Nationwide-only team can compete on a consistent basis. I mean, we're doing it every week. If we could just get those five laps back from Daytona, we would be a little closer in the points. But, you know, I think we've completed every lap and run in the top 10, got a pretty good streak of top-10 finishes here, and top fives.
But it's tough to win a race in any series. Everything has to go your way. We've been close this year at winning some races. Hopefully we can win a few through the summer here and validate the Nationwide-only teams, show everybody we're here for real, you know.
Q: You know how demanding it is to compete in just one series. Do you somewhat marvel at the fact that Kyle Busch is competing in three series?
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, I mean, I think it's great. I think any racecar driver, I mean, I love to race. I'd race any day of the week. But realistically, when it comes down to it, it takes a lot of effort to do that. I mean, he's certainly got a big schedule, especially through the summer here, and he's doing a great job at it.
You know, I'm jealous in the fact that he gets to run all three series in competitive cars. But at the same time I know it's a lot of work for him. You know, maybe through the hot summer months here, might have a little hope that it might catch up to him and we'll be able to take advantage of that in the Nationwide race.
But, yeah, it's pretty cool he can do that, and he does it on a successful basis.
Q: Just wondering if you could give us like a career assessment as to where you're at right now and maybe a look at what your goals are here for the season and for the future.
JASON LEFFLER: Okay. Well, I mean, a career assessment. Half of me is really proud to be where I'm at in the Nationwide Series and with a competitive team. I've been up and down through the three NASCAR series probably about eight or nine years now. Obviously, I'd like to be racing on Sunday full-time with a lot of those guys. But at the same time I got a lot of friends that I raced against in USAC with Sprint cars and dirt track racing, midgets and Silver Crown, that never got the opportunity to move on. So I'm really happy and content where I am in the Nationwide Series. I think if you look at the numbers and, you know, the attendance and the TV numbers and the exposure you get, it could arguably be the second biggest series in the United States. So, you know, it's a great competitive series to be in.
So I'm pretty happy where I'm at. I've been to the Cup level a couple of times and haven't had near the success I would like to have. If I can end my career and say I've won a Sprint Cup race and multiple Nationwide races, I would consider it a huge success.
Right now, though, we're concentrating on the Nationwide championship and we're really concentrating on trying to win a race, trying to win that $50,000 bonus this weekend that Nationwide is putting up at Kentucky. I feel like once we get the first win of the year for our team, we can get a couple more and just keep, you know, chiselling away at a run for the championship.
Q: From your perspective, could you compare the drivability of the current generation of Nationwide cars with the tapered spacer to the Busch cars and the Nationwide cars you previously drove, and which do you prefer?
JASON LEFFLER: That's a great question. As a racecar driver, I prefer a lot of horsepower. It's a debate. We've got these tapered spacers on here to try to cut costs in the engine department. I don't think it really shows up in the cost-cutting measure. The drivability of them, horsepower wise, when you come up out of the corner you're just back wide open and you don't have a forward bite issue or guys sliding around.
I think if we put a lot of horsepower in these things, opened that tapered spacer up, gave us some more gear back, personally I think the racing would even be better than it is now, 'cause the more horsepower you give a driver, the more mistakes he's gonna make and the harder it's going to be for him to run consistent. You know, obviously if the guy in front of you is making a mistake, you can pass him easier, and vice versa.
But, you know, the cars, they go through the center of the corners so much faster. And given the fact that we've put this tapered spacer on and we're lacking horsepower, now it's kind of opened up some more costs on the bodies because, you know, for years we just built as much downforce as we could in these racecars - in the Nationwide Series I'm talking - and now we're starting to think maybe we need to take some of the downforce, drag out of them to help them go down the straightaway faster. Obviously, that's costing some money to do that in the research and development and the wind tunnel.
But whatever rules they throw at us as a racecar driver, you adapt to them, try to put the best show on you can. I feel like we're putting, you know, great races on on Saturday. But, you know, pretty much if I had my way, it would be a lot of gear and no tapered spacer and a lot of horsepower (laughter).
Q: On a totally different subject, in the past, Braun has talked about possibly doing a Cup race here or there. Does the switch or the divergence with the new car, does that make that less likely to happen? Is there any talk of Braun doing any Cup races?
JASON LEFFLER: I mean, I think Todd would like to maybe do some Cup races, aside from the Nationwide Series. He's very committed to the Nationwide Series. He enjoys it. We all enjoy it. It is our main series. But I wouldn't be surprised if down the road we try to maybe run some Cup races. But nothing's been set in stone and really that's probably a better question for Todd himself. But I know we're all committed to the Nationwide Series. We enjoy it. It's our home. And the fact that we run competitive week in and week out makes us even more excited just to keep going.
Q: You probably have raced a lot of champions and veterans in your career. Can you remember when you were watching a veteran when you were first coming up, watching the moves on a track, that gave you an eye-opening lesson, when something just kind of clicked for you when you watched somebody else?
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, that's a great question, too. You know, I think early on in my Nationwide career, racing with Mark Martin, it was actually in the Winn-Dixie car. He was just so fast. I remember we had early practices. Early for me is 9 a.m. Still to this day it feeling early (laughter). I remember just buckling in my car and Mark would go out there and just rip off an incredible lap. He would just park the rest of practice. I'd be out there running laps and laps, trying to get anywhere close to that lap time and couldn't do it.
But just racing around him and seeing how he did things, and that helped early on in my career. You know, things are still clicking nine years later when you run around guys and see how they're running, whether you're racing with Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards or someone like that, any of the good guys, Tony Stewart. But I just remember Mark Martin early on.
Q: You mentioned feel, how important that is for your crew chief about a racetrack and a car. Can you describe for a fan what senses you use to be able to feel a good racecar to a top-10 finish?
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, I mean, it's not just a matter of turning the steering wheel. You feel everything all through your back and in your butt. You know, just when you get that car to turn like you want it to turn but not get loose and not push. I've never had a perfect racecar. I think if you talk to a lot of racecar drivers, they say they probably never really had a perfect racecar, but I've had some good ones, and you kind of keep that feel in the back of your mind, and you keep working for that in practice.
TRACEY JUDD: Jason, appreciate the time you spent with us today. I understand you're over in Indy getting that midget car ready to run in the race ahead of ORP out there when we do visit in a few weeks. Have fun with that. Thanks for the time. We will see you in Kentucky this weekend.
JASON LEFFLER: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. Hopefully we'll get to Victory Lane and have some more things to talk about next time. Thank you.