Archive for October, 2010

Fishing with Mike “Ike” Iaconelli

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Mike “Ike” Iaconelli who is also from New Jersey. He is the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion and the 2006 Bass Angler of the Year. He’s one of the best professional anglers out there and it was cool to do an appearance with him for Toyota. We actually swapped jobs so-to-speak. I took him for a spin around the Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) and then he took me fishing on Lake Norman. It was an experience I will not forget.

It’s always cool for us to switch things up a little. It’s fun to take people for rides around the track. The original plan was to put Ike in a two-seater NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota, but the weather did not cooperate. It rained in the morning so I drove him around in the CMS Toyota Camry Hybrid. Believe it or not, I have never driven one of those Camrys before, and I was impressed! I enjoyed showing Mike how to get around the place because he hasn’t been around racing all that much. He was really interested in experiencing as much as he could from my perspective. It’s hard to show people the true experience and feeling we go through, but I think he understood a lot more than the average race fan because of being a pro angler.

I really enjoyed the experience because I love to fish and I knew who Mike was since he’s from my home state. It was awesome to go out with him on his boat with his fishing gear on Lake Norman. It’s a place I fish on a lot when I am home. I used the opportunity to learn as much as I could, and I watched how he approached the lake. It gave me some insight as to how he does things when he goes to a new lake and gets ready for a tournament.

Ike didn’t share his biggest secrets with me, but I did see how much work goes into fishing a lake professionally. It’s a lot of hard work. He fished fast and hard. That’s what pro anglers do. When he starting catching them, he really looked for all the little details and tried to break it all down. He wasn’t afraid to move on if he wasn’t catching anything. I learned that time management and making smart decisions are crucial in being a successful angler.

At the end of the day, I learned that his job is tough. It’s an extremely tough job with some of the same types of challenges as being a NASCAR driver. He goes to a lake for a tournament and it’s pretty much a week-long event. He participates in practices and then fishes the tournament for three days. It’s a much longer work week than our deal. Our practices and race are combined into two or three days.

I definitely saw similarities in our jobs during the swap. There are a lot of ups and downs in our professions. He talked about how sometimes he has a great day and then the next day he can do the exact same thing and have a totally different and devastating result. I see the same thing in NASCAR. We both have to stay focused on what we are trying to do and do the best job we can.

I am hoping Mike and I can get together again. I would love to have him come to Dover and I’m checking my schedule to see if I can go to one of his tournaments. Our day at the track and the lake was neat experience and I’m glad to have made a new friend from it all.

Before I go, I want to thank all of the NAPA Belden Sweepstakes winners who visited Michael Waltrip Racing last Tuesday night. It was nice to sit down and have dinner with them. They are extremely hard workers who enjoy the auto industry. They were really impressed with our race shop and how good our NAPA Know How pit crew is. The crew did a pit stop seminar and then had the winners try to jack up the NAPA Toyota and change a tire. There were some pretty big guys who had a hard time getting the car off the ground. We also had a good time the following day at the Charlotte Motor Speedway even though the weather didn’t totally cooperate.

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Charlotte 2

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Last Friday night I was thinking there for awhile that this week’s blog might be about a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. I tried really hard to get us the win. We came close. I had a lot of fun. Mike Greci and the entire team brought a really good car. It’s been since Talladega of 2006 that I went to victory lane in that series. I only raced six times in 2006 and the win came on the very first race of my schedule.

Friday night, it was my third race for Diamond-Waltrip Racing, but the first event driving the new Nationwide Series car. I like the new car. It drove really well and it seemed to drive better in dirty air than the Cup cars do so I think there are some things that NASCAR can look at. It’s the new generation of race car and it’s evident that it’s an improvement from the COT car that debuted for us three years ago. I hope some of the things on the Nationwide car can be applied to our Sprint Cup car down the road. I think it could make the racing even better than it already is in the Cup Series.

We started the race in fifth, but in the early stages, we had some problems with the front end of our car. We think something might have bent so it lost some height and started to hit the ground. We had to pit a few times under a caution to add rounds to the springs. We went back out and were the final car on the lead lap. The adjustments helped because I drove up to the front in just a few laps. That’s how good the car was. It was pretty cool.

I have to be honest. I have never been that disappointed to run second because our car was that good. The last set of tires got us a little bit too tight and I think that was the difference. I ran inside of Brad Keselowski for quite awhile and I just couldn’t clear him. I felt like if I could have gotten clear and gotten in the clean air, I would have been in really good shape. I just couldn’t quite get there. At one point, I had Brad off of Turn 4. He got on my bumper and pushed me a little bit. I thought I had it made there, but when he turned down on the inside of me, he somehow got a run. If I could have gotten to Turn 1 ahead of him, I think we would be talking about an entirely different ending to the race.

As for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the NAPA Know How crew gave me a really good car. We had a decent night and ran in the top 10 for about 95 percent of the race. It was nice to run from fifth to ninth place pretty much all night. The last caution of the race, we took two tires and the car just got way too tight. We ended up finishing 15th. It was disappointing, but our car had good speed all weekend long and we were close.

Our biggest challenge all weekend long was we were tight in the center of the corner. We never could get that worked out of our NAPA Toyota. I felt like if we could get it turning a little bit better, we would have really been in good shape. As it was, we were only a tenth or two off the leader and it seemed like whoever got out there in the lead, they were two tenths better than the rest of the frontrunners. We were right there. We just needed to close the gap. As I have said many times, we are making strides and are constantly working and learning. One of these days we are going to put it all together and get NAPA that much-deserved win.

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I had a really good week and as I mentioned in my last blog, I went to Montana to go white-tailed deer hunting. It was a blast!

I left Kansas Speedway to do white-tailed deer hunting in Montana with the Realtree folks. A television crew followed us like my last hunt as it’s going to be a part of the same NASCAR hunting show. My best friend Adam Sherer went along. Adam is the same guy I went fishing with a few weeks ago off the coast of N.C. Anyway, on the first day we scoped out the area and saw a bunch of deer. We spotted an impressive 10-point buck so we all knew we were in for a good hunt.

During first two days of the hunt, we had several close encounters, but never had a good opportunity to shoot one. But on day three, that was an entirely different story. In the morning, Adam encountered a 10-point buck that would have scored in the 150” class, but he couldn’t take the shot because a limb was in the way. Fortunately for Adam, all was not lost.

Later in the afternoon, it was my turn. I smoked a nice deer. It was a 10 pointer in the 125” class. He was a young one – about three years old. Now, it was up to Adam to deliver. Adam spotted a really nice 10 pointer about five minutes before dark. It came right into his bow range on the right side. He drew and took a shot. The buck went 50 yards before piling up. He turned out to be bigger than the one Adam missed out on earlier in the morning. This buck was in the 162” class. He was massive.

I absolutely love hunting and it’s the way I like to relax and get focused. Obviously when I walked off the plane to go to my NAPA appearance in Staunton, Illinois, I was pretty stoked. Most of the fans there knew I had gone hunting and wanted to know how it went. I want to thank Jim McKay who invited me to sign autographs at his trade show. His event was a success and helped raise $41,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Then it was off to California for the race weekend.

The NAPA team had a really good weekend at the Auto Club Speedway. If only the finish could reflect that.
We started a little bit off on Sunday but, we worked on the car and got it really good. We ran in the top 10 for most of the race and were sixth at the time we had our right fender tore off due to an incident on pit road. That took us out of it. For us, an 18th-place finish for a half wrecked car isn’t too bad. Overall, it was OK.

I’m not sure what this team has to do to get a little bit of luck on our side. It seems as if we have a really good car, something strange happens and we finish 20th. If we have a bad handling car we still finish 20th. It’s disappointing, but it’s racing. It is how it goes. We’re going to keep at it and it will all work out.

Next up is Charlotte Motor Speedway. I’m hoping the home cooking and being at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week will start our turn to the positive side. We had a good car in the spring race. We won the Showdown and finished second in the All-Star Race. Then we had some bad luck in the Coca-Cola 600 which isn’t too surprising. We had a good car so I am looking forward to going back. I’m also racing in the Nationwide Series race so I’m going to be busy, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
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Kansas

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

A few weeks back when my brother made his first start in the Nationwide Series, I said it was a big weekend for the Truex family. Then two weeks ago at Dover, I found myself saying it again as Ryan won his second-straight K&N Pro East Series championship. Well, thanks to Diamond Waltrip Racing, another major event happened a lot earlier than the Truex family expected. On Saturday, my parents watched Ryan and me race against each other for the very first time.

Ryan raced the No. 99 Out! Pet Care Products Toyota and I ran the No. 00 with the same sponsor. We had reversed paint schemes so we kind of matched out there on the track. It was the first time I had raced on an intermediate track in the Nationwide Series event in about five years so it was nice to return to the Series that pretty much put me on the map when it comes to NASCAR. I finished fifth. A couple of the guys were a little bit stronger than us. I had a speeding penalty on pit road that cost us a bunch of spots, but we raced back up there and got the top-five finish.

To be honest, I kept my eye on Ryan all day long. Every time he was ahead of me, he had to pit. And every time I was ahead of him, I had to pit. We never did get near each other to race head to head. That’s the only thing I really missed. I am so proud of him. He did an awesome job out there. He did exactly what he needed to do and got a solid finish. During most of my post race interviews, the media called me Ryan. That didn’t take long to happen did it?

All and all, it was a very busy weekend for me as I also did a lot of work promoting NAPA’s Susan G. Komen for the Cure program. I was happy to do it as it’s such a great cause and I hope we can raise a lot of money. I attended the Komen press conference on Friday and sat next to the “King” Richard Petty. Then on Sunday, our Honorary Pit Crew Member Bill Sims brought his wife Susan to the race to take part in his unique experience. It turns out she is a breast cancer survivor and in January, she will celebrate six years of being cancer-free. I think she loved our NAPA All Out for the Cure paint scheme as much as Bill did. She even took a flyer about our Signature Car promotion and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her name on my car at the Texas Motor Speedway race on Nov. 7. Don’t forget, if you are interested in participating in our Signature Car Facebook promotion, you still have until Oct. 11 to sign up. Just visit www.facebook.com/napaknowhow.

I am now off to Montana to do some white-tailed deer hunting with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and my best friend Adam (a.k.a. Dupree). I’ll share our adventures with you next week. On Thursday I go to Staunton, Illinois for a NAPA appearance before heading to California for the race weekend. It should all lead up to a good race weekend. I’ll be pulling double duty again and I hope to have a strong run in the NAPA Toyota. We had a fast car in the spring race before we had a mechanical issue. We should be good to go now! Take care and I’ll talk to you soon.