June 16, 2007. That date probably doesn’t ring a bell for most people. For others, however, it may have importance. There’s no one that can forget that day more than Asheville, NC native Stephen Leicht.
That day was the lone NASCAR win for Leicht. Though he certainly did not have the fastest car that day (that belonged to Carl Edwards), Leicht’s win marked the lone victory for Robert Yates Racing in NASCAR’s second tier series, sort of like AAA baseball.
At the age of 18, Leicht was on the verge of becoming a NASCAR superstar. He had a driver development deal with Robert Yates Racing, a team that is now defunct, but at the time was an exceptional team to be involved with. When Leicht made his debut in 2005, Yate’s team had Elliott Sadler and Dale Jarrett leading the way for the organization. They started what was then a Busch (Nationwide) Series team to help Leicht gain experience with the two veteran Sprint Cup Series driver’s helping out as well. Unfortunately, since that time, things haven’t worked out the way Leicht had hoped.
Yates’ team closed shop in 2009 due to a lack of funding, and Leicht wasn’t under contract with the team back then. He was released from his contractual obligations after his only full-time NASCAR season. It wasn’t a deal where Leicht wasn’t impressive, however, because he certainly was. Finishing seventh in points in 2007, Leicht showed that he was serious about being a winner.
The rest of Leicht’s career didn’t seem to go along with that flow though. After that year, Leicht was sent looking for a job. He didn’t want to run for a low funded team, so he took a part-time gig with Richard Childress Racing, hoping to impress some people along the way.
“At the time, Richard approached me and said he only had four-five races for sure for me in 2008. We didn’t think it was going to be a problem to find a sponsor for the full season. As everyone knows, we didn’t find a sponsor for three years and that’s when my contract expired with him in 2010. It was just really bad timing. 2007 was about the time that sponsorship started to get really hard to find, and the economy was taking a dive. I don’t think it was the wrong choice, I think it was just bad timing,” Leicht said in an exclusive interview with Rant Sports.
Working with Shane Wilson, Leicht was able to earn a 10th place finish in his first start with the team at Fontana. He was able to rack up three more top-20 finishes that season. However, driving just five times all year long, Leicht wasn’t able to hit his stride and impress the people he wanted to. He stuck with Childress for another year and ran exceptionally well. Leicht had six top-10’s in nine races during the 2009 season. Though all of the races he ran were on weekend’s not with Cup Series races, he still out battled guys running for the championship, which showed his capability of running up front.
“It was a flattering experience to work with Richard Childress Racing. Richard’s a good friend of mine and he’s someone I always wanted to race for. Running the Holiday Inn car was kind of like a dream come true being only 21-22 years old and getting an opportunity like that. Being part of that team was an incredible experience and hopefully we can do that again someday with a big sponsor and a big team like that.”
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