On Friday, Michael and I ran into Ron Capps at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was a lot of fun to catch up with him as I haven’t seen him since NAPA’s Employee Appreciation Day back in March. Capps flew in to help the NHRA promote its Countdown to 1 playoffs and the upcoming race at the zMax Dragway. It’s a shame we won’t be able to see him race in our own backyard as we’ll be up in New Hampshire for the Cup race. He’s really wants Michael and I to suit up and take a ride in his NAPA Funny car. Maybe someday …
Our Bristol weekend was a disappointment. We practiced really well and our lap times on the long runs were impressive. There was no doubt about it. We had a fast car. Qualifying was no different. We got an early draw which was not in our favor. I laid down a qualifying lap that was over two-tenths quicker than practice and in the end, only eight cars were faster than us. I was really proud of that effort and it was my best starting spot for a Bristol Sprint Cup race.
I went to sleep on Friday night thinking this race could be it for us.
I woke up on Saturday and despite the rain washing all the rubber off the track, I still felt like the possible change in track conditions would still be OK for us. I went to hospitality and met our Honorary Pit Crew Member Chuck Bowles. He had no idea that his name was decaled on our car. His expression was priceless. He had one message for me – don’t get the car wrecked.
For the first-third of the race, we were really good. I really liked our chances. By lap 150, we were running down the leaders and the NAPA Toyota was the fastest car on the track. I thought we were maybe two or three small adjustments away from being able to take the lead. But around 250, we somehow lost the handle on it. Our car wouldn’t turn and was really loose. We were never able to catch up with the track. Knowing what we had at the start and then see it all go away was frustrating as well as confusing.
Also, Goodyear brought a new tire for this race so what we learned from the spring race was pretty much thrown out the window. The new tire caused the track to get rubbered up. You could see it happening because the track’s concrete kept getting black. I think the more rubber that was put down changed the conditions and who could adapt to it best was going to do well. Our teammate David Reutimann and his crew did a great job adapting all night. He went door-to-door with Kyle Busch for the win. That’s pretty impressive considering he was recovering from food poisoning.
Our night at Bristol is just one of those live and learn situations. Our NAPA team continues to show some serious speed. Pat and I are still building our notebook for this year. It was impressive to see this new team contend for a Chase spot. Unfortunately we hit a rough patch of bad luck and realistically, our chances to make it are pretty slim. Our focus now is winning trophies for NAPA and preparing for next season. We have a good grasp on everything and plan to do more testing. We’ve added North Wilkesboro and Gresham to our schedule in September.
This week has been quiet on the competition front since it’s our final off weekend of the season. I played in Larry McReynolds 9th Annual Celebrity golf tournament in Mooresville with some other NASCAR drivers like Kyle Petty, Scott Speed, Ron Hornaday and Regan Smith. You should have seen what Kyle Petty was wearing – he’s hysterical. All the money raised is going to some great charities, including SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now). It’s fun to have some time with those guys away from the track.
Now, Sherry and I are packing our bags for a last-minute trip to the coast of North Carolina. We’re going with a friend of mine and his girlfriend. We’re also bringing our dog Lexi. She likes to go swimming. Our plans are to kick back, relax and of course, do some fishing. I have to hand it to Sherry; she’s pretty good about arranging vacations where I can fish. She even likes to fish a little bit too as long as the water doesn’t get too rough. Hopefully the waters will be calm and she’ll be out there with me. I’ll forward some pictures of our trip to include in next week’s blog.
Until next week