Leffler Scores First NASCAR Busch win for Toyota
Jason Leffler drove Toyota to its first victory in the NASCAR Busch Series with a rousing run from seventh to first in the final 37 laps Saturday in the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
It was Leffler's second Busch win in 139 starts. The 31-year-old Braun Racing driver was running fifth when he gambled and stopped for tires under caution on Lap 142 at the .686-mile track. He fell to 12th.
The top four cars of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, David Reutimann and Ron Hornaday stayed out. Leffler showed his strength by charging back to seventh in nine green-flag laps wrapped around two cautions.
When the race went green with 37 laps to go, Leffler moved up to fourth behind Biffle, Edwards and Reutimann, who were waging a tremendous battle at the front.
Edwards and Biffle, both in Roush Fenway Racing Fords, ran side-by-side for five laps before Edwards pulled in behind his teammate on Lap 170.
Reutimann, in Michael Waltrip Racing's Toyota, passed Edwards five laps later, moving high exiting Turn 4 and carrying the momentum to the inside in Turn 1.
Leffler passed Edwards for third a few laps later and began working on Reutimann. Leffler went into second with 15 laps remaining, moving past on the inside exiting Turn 2.
"I had to get rough there with the 99 (Reutimann)," Leffler said. "He's probably not very happy with me right now, but I had to get past."
That left Biffle, who had led all but one lap -- when Edwards had beaten him by a foot -- since Lap 103.
Leffler had pulled a few feet in front of Biffle when the race's final caution came out on Lap 193, but Biffle still was scored the leader because he was out front at the previous scoring loop when the field was frozen for the yellow flag.
The race restarted with five laps to go. Biffle immediately pulled a few car lengths ahead, but Leffler pulled alongside him two laps later and took the lead on Lap 198 of 200.
Leffler, working on the inside, was able to pull ahead on the inside groove and won by 1.009 seconds.
"What a way to win," Leffler said. "To battle Biffle and Reutimann like that was awesome. To get Toyota its first (Busch) victory is really exciting."
Leffler's crew chief, Todd Lohse, made the call to give up some track position to take tires on Lap 142, and it proved to be the race's turning point.
"The tires really fell off," Leffler said. "It worked out good. We only lost seven spots and it made our car better than everyone else's."
Leffler had won seven races at ORP in USAC Midget and Silver crown races, the last in 2002.
"It feels great to get back to the winner's circle here again," Leffler said.
Reutimann finished third. Edwards, forced to start at the back because of his Nextel Cup duties at nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was fourth and Hornaday was fifth.