When rain washed out Thursday night's qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Jason Leffler found himself in a hole for the start of Friday's 167-lap race. With the field being set by owner's points per the NASCAR rule book, his No. 18 Dollar General Tundra - mired in the middle of the standings after being hampered by early-season misfortunes - rolled off the grid in the 18th position. The veteran driver, who battled an ill-handling Toyota for most of the race, patiently maneuvered his way into the top 10 in the closing laps of the race and was able to bring home a hard-fought sixth-place finish.
"It was a good battle and we battled hard," said Leffler who picked up his second consecutive and third top-10 finish this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). "We ended up sixth after running fifth. We put ourselves in position that if we had enough speed, we probably had a chance to be top-three, but it just didn't work out. Just have to thank everyone involved. Monday at Dollar General.com you can get 10 percent off all of your online purchases because we got a top-10, hopefully next time it will be 20 percent when we win. I have to thank Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), M&M's, Flexco, Shore Lodge and all the guys working hard on our KBM Tundra."
The California native had made his way to the 12th position by the time the first caution of the race occurred on lap 4, but communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips that his Tundra was "a little tight." After the race restarted on lap 8, Leffler continued his march forward, making his way into the ninth position on lap 10. As he fell back into the 12th position, he expressed that the tight condition he had earlier reported had intensified as the race progressed under green flag conditions.
A lap-33 caution provided Phillips his first opportunity to make adjustments to the Dollar General Tundra. When pit road opened, the KBM over-the-wall crew pulled a left-front spring rubber during its four-tire stop. Despite having to make an adjustment, the crew was able to pick up two spots on pit road, returning their driver to the track scored in the 10th position.
Leffler reported that the adjustment had successfully freed up his Tundra, but reported that it was now too loose as he ran just inside the top 10 during the middle stages of the race. In an effort to provide their driver with more security through the corners, the crew made adjustments to the trackbar during its next two pits stops. The No. 18 Toyota was scored just outside of the top 10 as the event progressed into the final 50 laps.
A Bryan Silas spin on lap 129 provided the team with a final chance to improve the handling of the Dollar General Tundra. When pit road opened, the crew put on four fresh tires, filled the truck with fuel and made yet another trackbar adjustment.
The veteran driver was scored in the 10th position when the race restarted on lap 135. When the green flag waved, he made his way through the gears quickly, positioned his truck on the outside lane and used a pair of three-wide passes to advance into to the sixth position by the time a Ty Dillon spin slowed the field again on lap 138.
When the race restarted for the final time on lap 144, Leffler once again took advantage of a strong restart and maneuvered his Tundra into the fifth position. He raced door-to-door with Brendan Gaughan for the fourth position, but was unable to complete the pass and tucked in line behind the top-four trucks. With five laps remaining, Nelson Piquet Jr. was able to make his way around Leffler, leaving the Dollar General Tundra scored in the sixth position when the checkered flag waved.
Johnny Sauter picked up his first win of 2012, the fifth of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career, finishing 2.101 seconds ahead of ThorSport racing teammate Matt Crafton. Joey Coulter, Gaughan and Piquet Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were seven caution periods for 32 laps. Ten drivers failed to finish the race.
With its third top-10 finish of the season, the No. 18 Tundra team improved three spots in the Truck Series owner's point standings. The team currently resides in the 15th position, 82 points behind the series-leading No. 6 truck of Eddie Sharp Racing.
Leffler will be back in the seat of the Dollar General Tundra when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action June 28 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. The UNOH 225 begins at 8 p.m. ET, with live coverage provided by SPEED commencing with the NCWTS Setup Show at 7:30 p.m. ET.