Jefferson Shines Under Phoenix Lights AVONDALE, ARIZ. (April 11, 2008) Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. drove his MJ2 Racing/Gran Prix Imports Chevrolet to a third place finish in the NASCAR Camping World Series Jimmie Johnson "150" Thursday...
Jefferson Shines Under Phoenix Lights
AVONDALE, ARIZ. (April 11, 2008) Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. drove his MJ2 Racing/Gran Prix Imports Chevrolet to a third place finish in the NASCAR Camping World Series Jimmie Johnson "150" Thursday night at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in round two of the championship series. Jefferson pitted with 60 laps to go giving him a fresher tires late in the race but his late race charge was stalled by a two late caution periods.
Jefferson qualified 7th for the 150-lap race in the hot afternoon sun, knowing that race conditions later in the evening would tighten up the race car. "I was happy with our qualifying lap," Jefferson said. "We had to free the car up as these cars always get tight late. The car was nearly perfect right out of the trailer. Jefferson was among the top two cars in practice all day.
The race started just after 7:30 pm with the sun setting behind the turn one grandstands. Jefferson gave up several spots in the early laps choosing not to push the car too hard until tire temperatures came up. After dropping back to 13th in the running order, Jefferson began to move his way up through the field and by lap 50 he was up to the sixth position.
Several drivers made early stops but Jefferson chose to run as many laps as his fuel supply would allow finding himself in the lead for the first time at Phoenix before pitting. That strategy looked to have backfired until a caution on lap 85 proved fortuitous as only Jefferson and eventually race winner Mike David gambled on the same plan.
After pitting twice, one for tires then once for fuel (NASCAR does not allow teams in the NCWS to add fuel and replace tires on the same pit stop), Jefferson found himself back in the 14th position in the running order with just under 60 laps to go. Jefferson worked his way through traffic and waged a late race battle with fellow Northwest drivers Jeff Barkshire, Nick Lynch, and Brett Thompson.
Two late race cautions bunched up the field and stalled Jefferson forward progress as his car was better on longer green flag runs. The final caution on lap 145 set up a green white checkered finish and Jefferson edged Brett Thompson at the start finish line by less than an inch to take the third position and his first podium finish for car owners Mike and Cindi Warn.
"I am thrilled with the finish," Jefferson said. "Gary Mears, Chuck Carruthers and the whole team have worked very hard all winter. After our performance we had some doubts but this car was nearly perfect all night and those doubts are erased. We really had a great car late in the race but we needed green flags and I think we might have had something for the top two."
Unofficially, the finish will vault Jefferson into the fifth position in the point standings after two races in the 55th season for the NASCAR Camping World Series. Jefferson and his MJ2 Racing team head to Kyle, TX April 19 for a 150-lap contest on the tricky 3/8-mile oval south of Austin.