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Leffler Hoping to Run Over Cup Guys

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 11 2009
Jason Leffler is giving the fancy-shmancy Cup stars all they can handle in Nationwide. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)

Jason Leffler is giving the fancy-shmancy Cup stars all they can handle in Nationwide. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Jason Leffler’s fifth-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday, on top of his remarkable consistency so far this season, has created the possibility of a Nationwide Series points championship battle involving a driver who’s not also a full-time Sprint Cup competitor.

Leffler currently sits third, 188 points behind leader Kyle Busch and 12 back of runner-up Carl Edwards, the only Cup drivers competing full-time in both series this year.

“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 race car,” he said. “Obviously you won’t know until you show up at the race track, but everybody is working really hard to get to Victory Lane and to catch Carl and Kyle.

“I think we’re going to do it here soon.” 

Consistency is the key to Leffler’s points position. He hasn’t finished worse than 13th since the season opener at Daytona, where he was 33rd after a controversial five-lap penalty for rough driving. In a similar incident the next day in the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not penalized.

“If we could just get those five laps back from Daytona, we would be a little closer in the points,” he said. Since Daytona he has posted four top-5 and 10 top-10 finishes.

He gave his Scott Zipadelli-led crew much of the credit for his stretch of strong runs.

“Scott Zipadelli came on over the winter,” Leffler said. “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….

“My team is a lot more consistent. My cars drive more consistent. They’ve been really mechanically sound. 

“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 race track and in our finishes.”

Leffler also said the Cup teams that also run in Nationwide may be diverting a bigger portion of their resources to the Cup effort than in the past.

I think as a whole maybe some of the top Nationwide-only teams are catching the big Cup teams just for the fact they’re concentrating on the COT car and we’re concentrating on our Nationwide car, and they’re totally different now,” he said. “Maybe some of the technology is spread apart and some of the things don’t apply.”

He said the trend may shifting to where a Nationwide Series-only team can compete with the double-dipping Cuppers on a regular basis. He said his Braun Racing teammates are getting more competitive too.

“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,” he said.

Leffler, a former open-wheel racer who ran the Indy 500 in 2000, has three NASCAR wins since he came the sport in 2001. He won at Nashville in 2004 and at Indianapolis in 2007 in Nationwide and picked up a truck win at Dover in 2003, so he’s hungry for another trip to Victory Lane.

His immediate goal is to try to win this weekend in the=2 0Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

“I’m looking forward to going to Kentucky and maybe getting that 50-grand that Nationwide is putting up,” he said.

Series sponsor Nationwide Insurance is offering bonus money to full-time series competitors at four stand-alone events this season – at Nashville, Kentucky, Iowa and Memphis.


– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 11 2009