Making his second NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) start of the 2012 season, Jason Leffler returned to the seat of the No. 30 Chevrolet Impala. After spending the day battling in the top-15, Leffler found himself with a late-race opportunity to improve his finishing position on a green-white-checkered flag restart. Making most of the opportunity, Leffler saved the best restart for last and brought home the No. 30 in the 12th- place.
Leffler was excited about the opportunity to run the Turner Motorsports entry at a place he is all too familiar with. With 15 previous starts at the one-mile tri-oval of Phoenix International Raceway (PIR), Leffler headed into Saturday afternoon’s Great Clips 200 with a great deal of confidence. During Friday’s two practice sessions, Leffler was trying to get accustomed to being behind the wheel of a stock car once again, but that didn’t stop him from turning in a solid couple practice sessions, placing the No. 30 in the 19th spot at the end of second practice.
Nearly mimicking the mock qualifying run from the first practice, Leffler placed the car in the ninth starting spot. During the 200 laps of the Great Clips 200, Leffler went in with the goal to just get into a rhythm and stay in the top-10. Once the green flag turned the field loose, they struggled to complete a lap as a competitor came to a rest up in the turn four retaining wall, bringing out the event’s first yellow flag. After being absent from competition for two months, Leffler later said that his restarts were something that he worried the most about. He would have plenty of opportunities during the 200-lap race as a total of 10 yellow flags feel throughout the Great Clips 200.
After slipping back to the 15th-position, Leffler found his groove and battled vigorously throughout the day to get back into the top-10 with a number of different competitors. During a lap 30 yellow flag period, Leffler radioed to the crew that the car was handling well, but he was a little free heading into turn one. He was looking to be most aggressive with the throttle. Crew Chief Mike Hillman Jr. took this information and called Leffler down pit road to take on two left side tires and fuel with an air-pressure adjustment to help tighten up the No. 30 Chevy.
After a long green-flag stint, Leffler found himself once again battling from the 15th-position. Receiving encouragement from the crew, Leffler’s lap times were about even with the top-10 spot running cars. Previously battling a free race car into the corner, he was now battling a free race car off the corners. After another pit stop on lap 65, the team made some quick adjustments in hopes of tightening the car up for their driver.
After slipping just outside the top-15 running spot just past the half-way mark, Leffler had said he was looking for an adjustment that could give him more front and side bite during their next pit-stop. With just 80 laps remaining, Hillman Jr. once again called his driver down pit-road for a two-tire and fuel stop. When the No. 30 car entered pit road, Leffler was running in the 20th position, and he exited pit road gaining 10-spots, restarting the event back in the top-10 with just 80 laps remaining. Plagued by his restarts most of the day, Leffler slipped up into the grey area of the race track and fell all the way back to the 16th running position.
Leffler would continue the battle for the top-15 running spot for the remaining last quarter of the race. After a huge wreck up in the third turn, a lot of oil littered the race track as a competitor tried to limp back to the garage area. NASCAR was forced to display the red flag for clean-up. On the green-white-checkered restart attempt, Leffler lined-up in the 15th position, and saved his best restart for last. It was during this restart that Leffler let it all hang out and he gained three spots on the final two laps of the race, bringing the No. 30 Impala home in the 12th-position.
“I can’t thank the entire Turner Motorsports team enough for this opportunity to race their car this weekend at PIR. I felt like I gave a lot away on the restarts today but luckily I had a good one at the end to bring the No. 30 home with a solid finish.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will head to Miami-Homestead Speedway for the series’ finale. The Ford EcoBoost 300 can be seen next Saturday November 17th on ESPN2 at 4pm ET. The race can also be heard on NASCAR Radio SiriusXM Channel 90.