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Numbers game: Jason Leffler ready for solid showing in Turner's No. 30

Jason Leffler
Jason Leffler

By Lee Montgomery
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Jason Leffler is entered in Turner Motorsports' No. 30 Chevrolet for this Saturday's Great Clips 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And that's good news for Leffler.

Leffler has driven the No. 30 entry five times in 2011, with an average finish of ninth. When he drives Turner's No. 38, though, Leffler has an average finish of 14th.

"It's really strange; it's almost comical," Leffler said of the number discrepancy. "I don't know. You can't put your finger on that. It's kind of strange because we don't change anything but the number and the paint job. It's not like I change teams, personnel or equipment. It just seems to work out better."

Sponsor Great Clips wanted Kasey Kahne to drive the team's No. 38 in select races, including this weekend, with Leffler going to the No. 30. Leffler keeps his crew intact when he drives the 30, much like last year when he drove the No. 10 in a handful of races.

And, strangely, he did better in the 10 in 2010 than the 38.

"It's more of a running joke," Leffler said. "Whoever gets in the 38 runs fast, but Kasey's had some bad luck, too, in that thing. I don't know. It's really funny. I think at the beginning of the year we did try to get Great Clips to change the number, but they weren't going for it. There's obviously no scientific information that leads to that's why we have some bad luck every now and then. It's pretty funny."

Leffler could be laughing this weekend, as the combination of the number and racetrack could prove to be a winning one. He's finished in the top 10 three times in six starts at Atlanta, coming home seventh (in the No. 10) last year.

"It's a racers' track," Leffler said. "I like where the tires fall off and you have four or five grooves to race on. I definitely enjoy going there, and I'm looking forward to this weekend. We'll definitely have some speed. If we can put a whole race together, we'll be up front at the end."

One problem, however: All of Leffler's top 10s at Atlanta have come in even-numbered years, and he's finished 20th or worse in odd-numbered years.

Leffler's numbers at the start of 2011 were solid, and he was No. 1 in the points standings for two weeks-after the races at Bristol and Talladega.

"We started off the year pretty good," Leffler said. "We didn't have a whole lot of speed, but we were able to get some really good finishes and got in a good points position-led the points on and off.

"And then in May, things kind of turned. We got our cars running a lot faster and we were more competitive, but then we couldn't put a race together."

Leffler said he ran out of fuel at the end of three races, and he had some mechanical issues that forced some poor finishes and "wiped us out of the championship, pretty much."

He's sixth entering this weekend, 91 points behind leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The goal now is to win races and finish in the top five in the points, and to do the latter, he'll have to catch teammate Justin Allgaier, who is 25 points ahead of Leffler.

"That's kind of been our focus," Leffler said of winning races. "But that's our goal, to get back to victory lane and to get back in the top five in points."

Fast facts
Great Clips 300
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway; Hampton, Ga.
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m. Eastern
Radio: PRN-Sirius/XM Satellite Ch. 90
Track layout: 1.54-mile oval
Race distance: 195 laps/300.3 miles
Qualifying: Saturday, 3:35 p.m. Eastern
2010 winner: Jamie McMurray
2010 polesitter: Kasey Kahne
Points standings: 1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 867; 2. Elliott Sadler, 862; 3. Reed Sorenson, 857; 4.Aric Almirola, 809; 5. Justin Allgaier, 801; 6. Jason Leffler, 776; 7. Kenny Wallace, 722; 8. Steve Wallace, 706; 9.Brian Scott, 692; 10. Michael Annett, 687.