Since making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in August of 2000, Jason Leffler has collected one win, 10 poles, 19 top-five and 30 top-10 finishes in 49 starts spread out over seven seasons. The California native is hoping to celebrate his 50th career Truck Series start with win number two Saturday in the SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Kansas Speedway ranks among Leffler's favorite tracks, perhaps because it was the site of one of the most memorable highlights of his NASCAR career. In September of 2001, the then 27-year-old driver captured the pole for the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. After leading the first eight laps of the 267-lap race, he remained in position for a strong finish until a two-car accident with nine laps remaining relegated the pole sitter to a 28th-place showing.
Leffler followed up his Cup Series pole at Kansas with a Truck Series pole there in 2002 - one of a series-leading eight poles the former open wheel standout captured in his rookie season. The 36-year-old driver has led multiple laps and registered top-10 finishes in each of his two starts in NASCAR's third division at the speedway nestled near the border of Kansas and Missouri.
The No. 18 Tundra will be sporting a new paint scheme this weekend as Shore Lodge - the premiere resort in Central Idaho and a quintessential mountain retreat located on the southern shores of the stunningly beautiful Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho - will adorn the hood of Kyle Busch Motorsports' flagship truck for the first of five races where the historic lodge will serve as primary sponsor this season.. Leffler will be behind the wheel of the Shore Lodge Tundra for three races, including this weekend, while fellow Toyota driver Brian Scott will pilot the No. 18 for his home-state sponsor in the remaining two races.
A win at one of his favorite tracks with a new sponsor onboard would certainly make Leffler's career start No. 50 very nifty.
Jason Leffler, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:
This weekend, you will make your 50th career Truck Series start. Do you have a favorite moment from your first 49 races?
"I wasn't aware that this will be my 50th Truck Series start. It feels like I've started a lot more than 50, but they've been spread out over a lot of years. My favorite moment would have to be at Dover in '03 when I won my first truck race. The 2002 season -- when I ran the Truck Series full-time -- also sticks out as a fun year. We led a bunch of laps and had fast trucks everywhere we went that season."
You won the pole for the Inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas. How special was that?
"That was definitely pretty cool -- a great experience. I've run really well there ever since and it is one of my favorite tracks. I also won a Truck Series pole at Kansas a few years later."
What makes Kansas Speedway one of your favorite tracks?
"It is slick and you have to hit your marks. It's a track that you can run all over the place. In the Nationwide (Series) cars the last few years, we were able to run the top, the middle and the bottom. From the Truck Series races I've watched, it seems to be very racy as well. The Midwest has awesome race fans that always seem to come out and support whatever series is racing there. It just provides a great atmosphere and is a fun place to race."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:
Do you feel like you've made improvements to your mile-and-a-half program since the race at Kansas last year?
"We felt like we really struggled at Kansas last year. From that point on, we worked really hard to improve our mile-and-a-half program and I feel that we made great strides at the end of last season. We changed a few more things over the off season that will help us continue to move in the right direction. We are bringing the same Tundra that we ran really well with Denny Hamlin at Homestead. Homestead and Kansas are similar tracks -- you struggle finding grip -- so I think our success at Homestead should translate well for a strong run this weekend."
After three races, your team is not where it is accustomed to being in the point standings. Will you change your strategy at all in the upcoming races?
"No. We go to every race with the same goal -- sit on the pole, lead every lap and win the race. Those two races -- Daytona and Rockingham -- we had really fast trucks, but due to circumstances beyond our control our day ended early. It wasn't anything that the guys did in preparing the trucks or Jason did driving them, it was just two misfortunate happenings. We'll go to Kansas, stay upbeat and keep working hard."