WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Patrick Carpentier, subbing for Michael Waltrip, felt like he was a moving target during today’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International. Having qualified 17th in a back-up car, the Canadian driver worked his way up to 12th position before being spun out by an overzealous driver. It was followed by three more similar incidents with the worst happening on lap 69 that put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota behind the wall for repairs. The team got back out to finish in 33rd position.
“We had a great car,” said Carpentier after the race. “I cannot believe the number of times I got spun out today. I was getting to think that maybe I made a few people angry at Infineon Raceway and it was payback. Some days you are just the bug on the windshield.
“The NAPA team did a great job for me today. Bootie (Barker) made good calls on the adjustments because each time we pitted, the car got better. It’s a shame our result did not match the quality of car we had.”
For the second week in a row, rain postponed the race until Monday. Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag with JTG-Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose on his heels. It took just 21 laps for the Aussie to take the lead and produce impressive lap times. The NAPA Toyota was not far behind in 12th position. Unfortunately, a top-10 was taken away when David Stremme took out Carpentier on lap 21. The contact put the NAPA team back to 37th position. Then three laps later, the caution was back out for another Stremme move. This time he collected the cars of Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.
The race restarted on lap 26. Carpentier battled back moving from 37th to 22nd by lap 50. All the hard work fell by the side when Ryan Newman lost his brakes and struck the NAPA Toyota. The contact cost the NAPA team 11 positions. Despite the setback, Carpentier was still fast and determined to get back into contention.
A spectacular-looking crash involving Kasey Kahne, Sam Hornish Jr. and Jeff Gordon occurred on lap 63. Kahne’s car broke loose making contact with Hornish and Gordon. The Hornish and Gordon machines slammed hard into the retaining walls. Both drivers were OK, but their cars were demolished. Kahne was able to continue on as debris forced NASCAR to red flag the race just as Carpentier entered onto pit road which was closed. It caused the NAPA car to be penalized and put back to the tail end of the lead-lap cars, but it allowed the team to visually evaluate the car and a cooling-system problem.
“It was so hot in my car that it took my breath away,” described the driver.
When the race was back under yellow, the team put on four fresh tires and attempted to fix the cooling system. When the NAPA Toyota returned to the track, it was scored in 30th position. Kyle Busch was the leader.
The green flag waved on lap 66. As before, Carpentier wasted no time in picking off valuable real estate. He climbed from 30th to 24th position in just four laps. Then on lap 70, the car of Elliott Sadler spun on the track. Carpentier was in position to clear Sadler’s car but was suddenly stuck from behind by the car driven by David Ragan. The contact slammed the NAPA Toyota into Sadler. The damage was significant and after evaluating the NAPA Toyota on pit road, the team had no choice but to go behind the wall for repairs. Barker’s goal was to repair the car before Sadler’s team in hopes of picking up one spot on the track. The plan appeared to work as Carpentier had half a lap on Sadler’s damaged machine. But shortly after the white flag waved, the NAPA Toyota was spun out one last time by Ragan.
“I really appreciated everything the NAPA team did for me today,” added Carpentier. “They worked hard to get me back out there to try and salvage a finish. But wouldn’t you know we got hit again on the final lap.”
JTG-Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose led eight laps of the race and was looking to make the Watkins Glen sweep after winning Saturday’s Nationwide event. But Tony Stewart played the spoiler relegating Ambrose to a second-place finish.
Finishing behind Stewart and Ambrose to round out the top-10 were Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Max Papis, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.
As for Michael Waltrip Racing driver David Reutimann, he finished where he started in 25th place.
This week, Michael Waltrip returns to the NAPA Toyota for the second and final race of the season at Michigan International Speedway. Broadcast coverage of the Carfax 400 will get underway Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. It can also be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and MRN.
Watkins Glen Unofficial Results:
Watkins Glen Lap By Lap: