Archive for March, 2010

Martinsville

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Martinsville has always been a tough track for me for some reason. In the past I have done well on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday, it becomes a difficult half-mile track to get a hold of. And if you asked my crew chief Pat Tryson, Martinsville isn’t one of his favorites either. Our opinions may be changing …

On Friday, it was a typical good day. It was the first time our group was there as a team. It was really our first short, flat track race of the year. We unloaded with a set up that really didn’t work. We made good changes throughout practice and they allowed us to make a lot of gains on it. We did some qualifying runs and felt pretty good heading into qualifying. We were 12th quickest and opted to make a few more improvements for qualifying. We ended up getting rained out. I think we would have had a shot at a top-10 qualifying start, but I don’t think it was a big deal for us. We were 20th in points and that was our starting spot. I believe we would have bettered that in qualifying, but 20th isn’t really that bad. I ended up not being too worried about it.

Saturday was a good day too. We started off pretty much the way we ended Friday’s practice. We knew we needed to work on the car to get it better. Again, throughout practice, we made some good changes. We hit on some positive stuff during the Happy Hour practice. I felt really good about our chances towards the end of practice. I wish we could have had a little more time to try a few more things that were working for us. But overall, I had a good feeling heading into the race on Sunday which turned out to be Monday because of the rain.

When the race finally was run on Monday, we ended up having a good race. We had a very solid day overall as a team. We ran in the top 10 most of the day and my pit crew knocked off an 11.9-second stop. We made good adjustments that kept making the car better throughout the event. The key for us was the fact that we kept ourselves in position all day – we stayed consistent. We stayed out of trouble. We put ourselves in position at the end to have a great run.

Pat Tryson made a great call by putting on four fresh tires during the last caution and we were able to take advantage of it. It was great that we were able to come home with a top-five finish. I am very pleased with how our day ended. I can’t believe we ended up on the right end of the deal for a change!

Tomorrow I am going up to Syracuse for a NAPA appearance. I am looking forward to it as it’s at the Syracuse Crunch hockey game. If you are in the area, please stop by.

This weekend we are off.  I have no firm plans, really. I think I am going to hang out and take care of some stuff at home. I am debating on going up to South Boston to watch my little brother race on Saturday. But all in all, it will be a quiet weekend.

 Have a Happy Easter and don’t forget – vote for me in the Sprint All-Star Fan Vote!

ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Well, that was a frustrating afternoon for the NAPA Toyota. We left Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night with a 27th-place finish after it looked like we were going to have another top-10 finish. By now, you probably know what happened. The Edwards/Keselowski wreck bunched the field up at the end and we tried to do two green-white-checkered finishes. On the first one, I was in a great position and looked like we would get a top-10, and maybe even a top-five, but Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer made contact and that triggered a pretty big wreck. It looked like I was going to make it through, but I got hit pretty hard in the left rear. We had nothing to lose so we stayed out on the track, but when the green flag dropped on the final restart, we found out our NAPA Toyota was really damaged so all I could do was just limp the car home. We ended up being the last car on the lead lap in 27th. Needless to say, our finish was not indicative of how well our car was handling.

Despite the disappointment, we’ll take a lot of positives out of the Atlanta weekend. I had a lot of fun visiting with the NAPA people as I got to meet many of you in the NAPA suite on Saturday and Sunday. I loved seeing all the NAPA hats and shirts at the track.

On Sunday, we didn’t start the race as good as we wanted to but Pat and the guys kept working and working and got the NAPA Toyota pretty fast over the last half of the race. As I said earlier, we were in position at the end of the race to have a really good finish. We are making progress each week. The one thing we are really on top of at the moment is our pit stops. My pit crew has been lights out the last two weeks. For the second consecutive week, they won the Tissot Precision Pit Crew Award for spending the least amount of time in the pits. That’s pretty remarkable and I couldn’t be more proud of their work so far in 2010.

We get an off weekend this weekend. It’s our first off weekend since before Daytona. Everyone could use a break. We spent two weeks in Daytona, traveled across the country to California then to Las Vegas then back to Atlanta. All of us are looking forward to the break — just get away for a few days and recharge.

We’ll get back at it at Bristol. I love the place and have won there in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. If you think Sunday was fun, wait until you see Bristol.

LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Hi Everyone,

First off, I got to attend my first Regional Spring Owner’s Meeting last Tuesday in Greensboro, N.C. I really appreciated meeting all the store owners and NAPA employees who were in attendance. So many people came up to me during the cocktail reception to welcome me aboard and to wish me luck. I truly feel a part of the NAPA family and I couldn’t be more proud to represent all of you.

As for our third race of the season, it was a mixed bag at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. My weekend started off by attending my poker tournament to benefit my foundation on Thursday. We held it at the Monte Carlo Resort and Spa. We have over 60 players including Michael, my crew chief Pat Tryson, Marcos Ambrose and his crew chief Frank Kerr. Kurt Busch also showed up and he was the first driver to go out. I am proud to say that I made it to the final table. It wasn’t easy. Pat was kind enough to buy my way back in one time and then I gambled by going all in a few more times. It was awesome that I got to play for the win. My tournament was the most fun I have ever had out in Las Vegas besides racing.

We ran a new paint scheme over the weekend. We had NAPAGold Filters on the car to launch the Buy It. Install It. promotion that’s happening this month. I hope the coverage we got helps the campaign. I’m also appearing this Friday on SPEED’s Trackside at 8 p.m. I’m taking the SPEED guys our NAPA cap giveaway and I’ll be tossing a few out to the fans in the audience. There are a lot of good things happening on the promotional front for you guys and I am glad to help by telling fans about it.

As for the actual race, we started 35th. I was really disappointed with qualifying. We had a mechanical issue. My ignition switch cut off when I was coming to the green. I lost a lot of time, but our car was fast. I was really happy with my NAPAGold Filters Toyota on Saturday. It remained fast especially during the long runs. I expected my car to be like it was last week at Fontana. Last week we were 11th by the first pit stop. This time it seemed OK, but I chose to take it easy during the start. I didn’t push it quite as hard. For me, Las Vegas is a really tough track. It’s harder to pass on than the Auto Club Speedway. I knew it was going to take a little bit longer to get up through the field, but we made it up to 23rd position by the first pit stop.

For the third week in a row, my pit crew did an awesome job. They’re getting the job done and are consistently helping me gain spots on the track. They did such a good job for me at Las Vegas that they won the Tissot “Pit Road Precision” Award. It’s a weekly award that’s given to the team who spends the least amount of time on pit road and finishes the event on the lead lap. We won $5,000 and a Tissot watch. The team with the most Tissot “Pit Road Precision” Award wins at the end of the season gets a $100,000 bonus plus Tissot watches for the crew and driver. That’s a pretty big deal.

Overall, the biggest challenge for us on Sunday was we just didn’t have a lot of grip. We were loose. Then we were tight. It was a tough day for us to find the balance I needed to really go and contend for a top-10. Our NAPA car wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Pat did a good job and we continue to build on our experiences as a new team.

This week is Atlanta and in case you haven’t heard – it is one of my favorite tracks. I expect only good things when I get to NAPA’s home track. I hope to not only defend my pole, but win the race for you guys!