When asked about the opportunity to drive the No. 18 Dollar General Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) this season, Jason Leffler described it as the "Chance of a Lifetime."
That's high praise from a man who has raced in the Indianapolis 500, piloted Sprint Cup Series cars for Chip Ganassi and Joe Gibbs, and has been a fixture in the top-10 of the final NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) standings the last five years.
So why is driving the Dollar General Tundra the chance of a lifetime? Every driver strives to land a competitive ride which allows him the opportunity to run up front and win races. In its first two seasons competing in the Truck Series, KBM's No. 18 Tundra has visited Victory Lane 16 times, led 1,895 laps and recorded 32 top-five finishes in 50 starts.
When Leffler makes his debut behind the wheel of the No. 18 Dollar General Tundra in Friday's NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (DIS), he's hoping to one-up his most recent finish at the famed speedway. The veteran driver came home second in last July's Nationwide Series race at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, crossing the stripe .04 seconds behind race winner Joey Logano.
To end a race at DIS in Victory Lane, one must adhere to the old adage: to finish first, you must first finish. While he's yet to win on the high banks of Daytona, Leffler has shown a knack for being around at the finish of the race. In 22 career Daytona starts across NASCAR's top three series, the California native has been running at the finish 18 times.
In a race that will feature a mix of rookies and veterans, starting near the front of the field may be the best way to avoid early trouble and to be around for the finish. Leffler boasts two previous pole awards at the "World Center of Racing," he led the field to the start of the Nationwide Series race in July of 2007 and the Truck Series race in 2003.
Leffler has started first and he's usually around for the finish. He's hoping Friday will be his night to finish first at DIS.
Jason Leffler, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Dollar General Tundra:
Are you excited about the opportunity to drive the No. 18 Dollar General Tundra?
"This is the chance of a lifetime. All the pieces are already in place to go win races and to have a sponsor like Dollar General onboard is incredible. I'm looking forward to carrying on the winning tradition, getting back to Victory Lane and starting off Daytona in a big way."
What type of racing do you expect to see in the Truck Series race at Daytona?
"I think you'll see a lot of tandem racing, especially at the end. You may not see it for the duration of the race -- NASCAR has changed some of the rules trying to stop everybody from doing it the whole race -- but to have a shot at winning, you're definitely going to need a partner. You will definitely see a lot of two-truck tandems coming to the stripe."
What will the transition from the Nationwide Series to the Camping World Truck Series be like?
"I think that the biggest transition will be just knowing the competition -- knowing the drivers that you're running around. I've been in the Nationwide Series full time for six years. To switch series -- obviously I've raced around a lot of the guys that run up front in the Truck Series -- it's a matter of learning the races and learning your competitors. With switching teams, you have to learn the ins and outs of a new team, but everyone at KBM has made me feel like I fit right in. I feel at home. Really, it's just about running good and I don't think there will be any real hiccups with that."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Dollar General Tundra:
What is the outlook for the No. 18 Dollar General Racing Team going into the 2012 season?
"Everyone on the team is excited and ready to get to Daytona. We feel really good about what we've done in the offseason and everyone on the team is upbeat. We're looking forward to working with Jason (Leffler) and expect to run up front and be in a position to win races with him behind the wheel. A few of our guys from the 18 truck last season have been promoted to the Nationwide Series team this year, but we've replaced them with some quality people and I don't expect us to miss a beat. It's good for our guys to know that if they come in and do a good job with the truck team there is a system of promoting from within at KBM."
This is the first superspeedway truck you've built in-house, what was the decision behind building the new Tundra?
"We just felt it was time to get better. We started out with some older stuff the first couple of years. With only running the superspeedway trucks twice a year, we felt that our time and money were better served concentrating on the other 23 races so we focused on building new short track and intermediate track trucks."