Leighton Back On NHIS Podium With Runner-Up Finish In New England 125

Loudon, NH (June 30, 2007): Brad Leighton led 48 laps of Friday evening’s Busch East Series’ New England 125 at New Hampshire International Speedway, but lost the lead to eventual race winner Joey Logano on a green-white-checkered finish and gracefully took the runner-up position at the checkers. The race was Leighton’s first appearance in the series this year, and his best finish at the ‘Magic Mile’ since 2005.

“I’ve had eight victories here and the ninth one seems to be coming really, really tough. It’s going to get tougher. There’s a huge amount of talent in this series,” said Leighton after the race. “We got the lead a couple of times and obviously we wanted to stay there. We just didn’t have the car to do it. Congratulations to Joey, he did a really nice job.”

Leighton, back together with longtime car owner and friend, Steve Griswold, fielded the No. 55 Irving Oil/Coca-Cola Chevrolet for the race and unloaded from the truck with optimistic results. The two-time Busch North Champion was 15th fastest in practice.

“I’ll tell you, the guys did a great job. We bought the car just about three weeks ago and they put it together with the help of ASM Motorsports. We sent a few guys down to Andy (Santerre’s) shop in North Carolina and it turned out really, really well.”

The Center Harbor, NH-resident picked up 2/10th’s of a second in time trials having posted a qualifying lap of 30.990 seconds (122.904 mph) in time trials Thursday afternoon for an 11th place starting position. Though Leighton said he had to adjust to the wheelbase on the car and the new spec engine, it didn’t appear that way to spectators. Leighton immediately began picking off the competition. By lap 12, Leighton was sixth.

The first caution waved on lap 16 and allowed for the Irving Oil race team to use pit strategy to their advantage. Leighton came down pit road at lap 17 and topped off his fuel tank. Less than a dozen cars in the 43-car field opted for the early pit, but Leighton was comfortable with the teams gamble.

“We knew it would be close, but we were counting on a lot of cautions,” said Leighton. “The guys obviously made the right call because we made it all the way.”

The rest of the field pitted at lap 49 setting up a restart at lap 53 with the Irving Oil Chevrolet in second. After getting by a lapped car, Leighton took the lead from the 35 of Eric Holmes by using the bottom groove in turn two.

Several caution periods ensued and time and time again, Leighton was in command. A restart on lap 86, however, would prove that the remainder of the New England 125 was not going to be easy. Leighton paced the field to green and was challenged by the 31 of James Buescher. The two were dead even over the course of the one-mile oval, but Leighton pulled ahead by a nose at the stripe. The next circuit, Buescher had the advantage and crossed the line just inches over Leighton. The caution came out with Buescher receiving the preferred inside groove for the restart.

When racing resumed, Leighton pulled ahead into turn one and settled out front comfortably in turn two. With cautions still reigning the day, Leighton was not able to put any distance on the field with restart after restart. Logano worked his way up to second for a restart at lap 109 and the two took the green side-by-side. Coming out of turn two, Logano pulled ahead by three or four carlengths over Leighton.

A massive pile-up in turn four gave Leighton another chance at Logano, and on lap 124, Leighton jumped the start early and pulled ahead of Logano. Leighton let off the throttle and gave Logano the point.

“I got a jump there’s no doubt about it,” said Leighton. “Joey had a better car, a quicker car once we got three or four laps into it. Last year, I was leading the race here and I was told I jumped the restart. I elected not to let the guy back by me and we all know what happened then. After a few victories here I’ve probably learned my lesson, and second is better than 42nd.”

Brad Leighton will return to action on July 14th at the second of his three-race schedule in the NASCAR Busch East Series when the team embarks on Thompson International Speedway.