Archive for July, 2010

Brickyard 400

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Hello Everyone –

Going into the Brickyard 400, I felt really good about our NAPA Toyota. We were fast all weekend long. Starting 12th was a decent starting spot for us. We had an early draw of fifth which is a good deal at Indy. Going out early at 10 a.m. is an advantage because the temperatures are cooler and the longer the session goes, the hotter it gets. I’m not sure if there was much of a temperature change this time. It started out hot and it stayed that way. But our time held up pretty well, so I was pleased with our starting spot. We had two practice sessions after qualifying on Saturday and we remained fast. In Happy Hour, we had the fastest car and I told some people that my NAPA Toyota was one of the best cars I have ever had for the Brickyard 400. I was really pleased with how Friday and Saturday went.

The Brickyard 400 is a long race. It is such a different kind of racetrack. Most places we go, the tracks are fast and have a lot of banking. Indy has long, long straight-aways and flat, tight corners. It’s an extremely challenging place to drive especially when considering all four corners are completely different. It’s a difficult place to race in traffic and it’s all about getting good track position. The first half of the race we got the job done. We had a top-10 car, but then our race took a bad turn with about 60 laps to go. To start off, we had a little bit of trouble on a pit stop. Our jackman, Brian “Hootie” Chase, got hit. I want to send out best wishes to him and I am glad he is OK.  He’s got a strained hamstring and hopes to be back with us in a couple of weeks. Then the following stop, our backup jackman had a problem with the jack. He had a tough time getting it under the car so it caused us to slow down. It cost us six spots on pit road. We were put back a few more rows than we should have been. Then on the restart, somehow, they got jammed up in front of us. Indy is almost a one-groove track. The restarts there have a tendency to get a little wild. A few guys in front of me started checking up. I was the last guy in line. I was right on the No. 2 car’s bumper. I just got back into the throttle wide open and they started to jam up. I got into the No. 2 car and got the splitter way up in the air. After that, we lost all of our aerodynamics. It was such a frustrating day for us. Our NAPA Toyota was a really strong car. We never were outside the top 10 until the problem on pit road. I felt like if we could get a little bit better track position towards the end, we would have a shot at it. It wasn’t meant to be.

Our bad luck has been pretty much the story of our team over the last two months. Overall, we’ve been doing great. The NAPA Toyota has been running really well. We’ve been having a lot of fun, but we just haven’t been able to close the deal due to many circumstances out of our control. It’s just part of the deal and we’re working through it. We are close to breaking through and getting that first win for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. I’m hoping Pocono can be it for us. We’ll just have to do the best we can and hope everything falls into place. Stay tuned!

Daytona 2

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I arrived in Daytona on Thursday afternoon in time for practice. The way our NAPA Toyota was running, I felt really good about our chances for repeating our top-10 result from earlier this year at Daytona. We brought the same car we ran in the 500 because it was in really good shape. In February it was a really good handling car, but this time, I thought our NAPA Toyota was even better. Bottom line … we just need to get a little bit of luck on our side.

Over the course of the weekend, it drove about the same. It was really good. Our two practices were interesting especially with the new spoiler and restrictor plate. We were faster and had more horsepower. The track was a lot hotter, slicker and bumpier. It made the cars a handful to drive later in a run and in traffic. If you were put in the middle, it made things very difficult and we saw several teams having to go to back-up cars because of wrecks. I felt handling was going to be a huge issue for everyone when it came down to the race and it was. The guys that could handle well on the longer runs were going to be the ones to watch and they were for awhile.

Track position turned out to be critical for us during the race. Riding out in the clean air was a huge benefit. Our car ran really well in the bottom groove, but it seemed as if most cars preferred the high line. Our NAPA Toyota was really loose up there so Pat worked on getting the NAPA Toyota to handle better on top. We stayed out of trouble the first half of the race and were running in the top 10 pretty comfortably. Then the caution came out when Kyle Busch wrecked. We were in sixth place at the time and a piece of Kyle’s crush panel hit the front of our car. We were going to be OK. It didn’t do much damage. We just needed to fix the splitter braces. The repair put us in the back of the field, but we had to make the fix. The splitter would have just drug off the car. We were working our way back up to the front and got caught up in the wreck. It was unfortunate, but there really isn’t a lot we can do about that. It’s just the way it’s been going for us lately. We’ve had fast cars and just can’t seem to get to the end. For whatever reason, we can’t seem to catch any breaks.  It’s just a shame for all of these NAPA Know How guys. They’ve been working so hard. Our car was really, really good and we were really just biding our time all night and running in the top 10. We were just cruising. We definitely had something for them. All we could get out of it was a 35th-place finish.

Moving forward, Daytona is going to repave the track. I really have mixed feelings about it. It’s almost one of those things where you need to be careful about what you wish for. It is already a fun track to race on. With that said, it is also very difficult. I think when they repave it; we are going to wish that they hadn’t done it. In a couple of years, it will weather back in and it will get bumpy. It will be like it was before. But right now it is so rough. The cars are hitting the ground so hard that it is breaking up the racetrack like it did during the Daytona 500. They have to patch it up. We can’t have delays because we are knocking holes in the track. I think repaving will be good for everyone involved.

Now it is off to Chicago. I am looking forward to having a great run there. We know that we have some things to work on. I enjoy the track. It’s been a good one for me. I have had some really strong cars there in the past few years. Pat and the NAPA Know How crew continue to work hard so I look forward to seeing what we can do.

Before I go, if you have not taken advantage of NAPA’s Track Pass offer – you need to do it. I think it’s a great way to follow our team during the race. Just go to www.nascar.com/napatruexscanner or visit NAPAonline.com and link from there.  All you will have to do is register as a new user and you will have access to the in-race scanner between me and the No. 56 team. You never know, you might hear me sing the NAPA Know How jingle. Stay tuned!