Archive for November, 2008

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Hi Everyone –

The desert saw some crazy things this past weekend. First of all, let’s talk about my NAPA AUTO PARTS team at Phoenix. My race was disappointing. On Saturday, we had a car that I felt could run in the top 10. We were 12th on the lap tracker. Our times were solid. We just felt really good about our NAPA Toyota. But when the race started, it felt like I was in someone else’s car. We just couldn’t seem to find the adjustments or do the things from Saturday to Sunday that other teams were able to do that ran well. My car was junk, plain and simple. But hats off to Bobby Kennedy and the guys for the hard work they did during the race. They made adjustments and thought outside the box. At the end, we once again had one of the fastest cars on the track. I am happy with the team’s performance during the race. I am not happy with how we started the race because we really felt like we were going to be good on Sunday. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, but we ended up with a respectable top-25 finish.

Now on to the crazy stuff …

The Truck Series race was wild. I talked to Bill Davis on Sunday morning and he thought the Truck Series has two of the silliest drivers in the history of NASCAR that are racing for the championship. What happened to Ron Hornaday was something you could understand and see happening. He just over anticipated how much grip he was going to have. He dove in there and spun out. It happens. Ron was on the gas. Then there was Johnny Benson. He started 13th and somehow drove into the wreck. It happens, but he was able to continue on the lead lap. Perhaps the most surprising thing ever was when he went into Turn 1 and wrecked with TJ Bell. I did not see that coming. It’s no secret. I am a Toyota guy. I want to see Johnny Benson win the title. I love Ron, but I’ve raced with Johnny my whole life. I like that cat. He needed those points. He needed to go to Miami with 30 or 40 extra points because I don’t expect him to outrun Ron. I think Ron will beat him at Miami. If Ron does that, he will win the championship. I guess I’ll have more to say AFTER the race is over to really understand how important the race at Phoenix was for these two drivers. I hate to say it but I think Toyota has lost the championship.

How about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus? I knew the 48 team would outrun the 99 team and head into Miami with the championship all but won. I looked at the lap tracker after Saturday’s practice and I didn’t see any reason for the 48 team to have any concerns. They weren’t dominant by any stretch, but they certainly were as good as anybody out there over the long run. When I say that, please understand that we have heard Chad go out after practice and make changes to their car. And I have to give them credit, when they make changes so far, they have made the car better. I saw the 48 team be in the ballpark after final practice. I felt pretty good that they would have a good day on Sunday and they did.

How about David Gilliland ending up on the hood of Scott Speed? Scott is one of the funniest drivers out there. He is priceless in his interviews. He has such energy. I wasn’t able to hear his interview when he was talking about what happened but a buddy of mine told me what he said and in my mind, I could hear him say, “Wow, Dave. You are throwing rubber in my face!” Poor David tried to put the car in gear to try and get off Speed’s car and he couldn’t get off his hood. He was stuck! He had absolutely no traction. That whole deal was crazy and that’s when your spotter says, “You got one below you.” He literally had a car below him. It was a crazy, crazy race. There was a lot of action, especially when I was coming to the checkered flag. I saw a crash between AJ Allmendinger and Juan Pablo Montoya. They hit the inside wall hard. I was busy dodging it and was able to come out on the other side of it. Bobby Kennedy called over the radio to see if I had made it through OK. I wasn’t sure what happened, but it looked like some sort of retaliation by Matt Kenseth. It was either that or his steering wheel came off. I saw the replay on my TWIN show on SPEED. Sure enough, Kenseth got into Allmendinger. That’s the one thing that’s bad about our sport. You see the aftermath, but you never really get to see what led up to it. More of the same could be coming this weekend as we enter “Championship Weekend” at Homestead.

Stay tuned!

Hi Everyone –

The desert saw some crazy things this past weekend. First of all, let’s talk about my NAPA AUTO PARTS team at Phoenix. My race was disappointing. On Saturday, we had a car that I felt could run in the top 10. We were 12th on the lap tracker. Our times were solid. We just felt really good about our NAPA Toyota. But when the race started, it felt like I was in someone else’s car. We just couldn’t seem to find the adjustments or do the things from Saturday to Sunday that other teams were able to do that ran well. My car was junk, plain and simple. But hats off to Bobby Kennedy and the guys for the hard work they did during the race. They made adjustments and thought outside the box. At the end, we once again had one of the fastest cars on the track. I am happy with the team’s performance during the race. I am not happy with how we started the race because we really felt like we were going to be good on Sunday. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, but we ended up with a respectable top-25 finish.

Now on to the crazy stuff …

The Truck Series race was wild. I talked to Bill Davis on Sunday morning and he thought the Truck Series has two of the silliest drivers in the history of NASCAR that are racing for the championship. What happened to Ron Hornaday was something you could understand and see happening. He just over anticipated how much grip he was going to have. He dove in there and spun out. It happens. Ron was on the gas. Then there was Johnny Benson. He started 13th and somehow drove into the wreck. It happens, but he was able to continue on the lead lap. Perhaps the most surprising thing ever was when he went into Turn 1 and wrecked with TJ Bell. I did not see that coming. It’s no secret. I am a Toyota guy. I want to see Johnny Benson win the title. I love Ron, but I’ve raced with Johnny my whole life. I like that cat. He needed those points. He needed to go to Miami with 30 or 40 extra points because I don’t expect him to outrun Ron. I think Ron will beat him at Miami. If Ron does that, he will win the championship. I guess I’ll have more to say AFTER the race is over to really understand how important the race at Phoenix was for these two drivers. I hate to say it but I think Toyota has lost the championship.

How about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus? I knew the 48 team would outrun the 99 team and head into Miami with the championship all but won. I looked at the lap tracker after Saturday’s practice and I didn’t see any reason for the 48 team to have any concerns. They weren’t dominant by any stretch, but they certainly were as good as anybody out there over the long run. When I say that, please understand that we have heard Chad go out after practice and make changes to their car. And I have to give them credit, when they make changes so far, they have made the car better. I saw the 48 team be in the ballpark after final practice. I felt pretty good that they would have a good day on Sunday and they did.

How about David Gilliland ending up on the hood of Scott Speed? Scott is one of the funniest drivers out there. He is priceless in his interviews. He has such energy. I wasn’t able to hear his interview when he was talking about what happened but a buddy of mine told me what he said and in my mind, I could hear him say, “Wow, Dave. You are throwing rubber in my face!” Poor David tried to put the car in gear to try and get off Speed’s car and he couldn’t get off his hood. He was stuck! He had absolutely no traction. That whole deal was crazy and that’s when your spotter says, “You got one below you.” He literally had a car below him. It was a crazy, crazy race. There was a lot of action, especially when I was coming to the checkered flag. I saw a crash between AJ Allmendinger and Juan Pablo Montoya. They hit the inside wall hard. I was busy dodging it and was able to come out on the other side of it. Bobby Kennedy called over the radio to see if I had made it through OK. I wasn’t sure what happened, but it looked like some sort of retaliation by Matt Kenseth. It was either that or his steering wheel came off. I saw the replay on my TWIN show on SPEED. Sure enough, Kenseth got into Allmendinger. That’s the one thing that’s bad about our sport. You see the aftermath, but you never really get to see what led up to it. More of the same could be coming this weekend as we enter “Championship Weekend” at Homestead.

Stay tuned!

Texas 2!

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Hi Everyone –

We finally got to qualify at Texas after having a few weeks off because of rain. David Reutimann got 12th and I got 15th position in qualifying.  There was a point during practice on Saturday that both cars were really good. Then on Sunday, David was able to take his from pretty good to really good. In regards to our NAPA Toyota, we never really could get a hold of our handling. It was so loose that I could not run the high groove. Another challenge was that my car would not go on new tires. It was loose. It was quite the opposite of Atlanta. So that speaks to the difficulty of getting the car to drive on tires that are cold or hot. We even saw Reutimann drive up to the front for a few laps, but on the restarts, he would fall back because his car was the same way.
In the end, the NAPA team pitted with five laps to go for gas and that was a stretch on fuel mileage for us. We were racing Ryan Newman and Dave Blaney. We were able to get past those guys through our pit stop and the work the guys did to get me off pit road in a hurry. My pit crew was awesome this past weekend. Beating Newman and Blaney was important to me.

I never got a chance to see a bunch of guys I was racing with, but what was real strange is I noticed for about 250 miles of the race, I was able to outrun the No. 24 car of Jeff Gordon. During one of the long, green-flag runs, I came off of Turn 4 and I could see Jeff going into Turn 1. We ran 40 or 50 laps and I passed him. I put him behind me and I ended up being two laps down. He gets the free pass, stays out on gas and finishes second. Crazy isn’t it?

It was great to see David get the lead and run the way he did. Something that I was very proud of is that all three of the MWR cars (55, 44, and 47) have three different drivers, crew chiefs and guys turning the wrenches — all three cars ran in the 28.9-second bracket. That just goes to show you that we were all good enough to be 24th or better. It shows me the kind of progress we are making and how we always dreamed of an organization that comprised of one team with three cars. I believe we are finally accomplishing that. With the new car that Bobby Kennedy, Mike Clark and all the boys at MWR are building, along with the engineering staff led by Nick Hughes, we are really beginning to see that we are gaining on it. That’s a great feeling. I certainly would have liked to see a better finish for the No. 55 team on Sunday night, but if you think back to Atlanta, we had the car that was the fastest of the three. We just couldn’t get it to the finish. David and Marcos (Ambrose) kind of slid around at Atlanta. The opposite was the case at Texas. David got a top-10 and Marcos got a top-25.

While there were some disappointments at Texas for the NAPA team, there was a lot of knowledge gathered and gained. We got a lot of things to be proud of with the race on Sunday. We head to Phoenix and Homestead for the last two races. With the way our car is running, I feel the NAPA team can establish itself as a top-20 contender in 2009. That’s what our goal is going to be for the NAPA team. We believe we can be a top-20 team. Let’s see what we can get accomplished in the last two races. I am looking forward to it!

Stay tuned. I’ll talk to you soon!