Darlington

Hi Everyone,

What a weekend at Darlington. I absolutely love the place. When it comes to qualifying, for whatever reason, I don’t qualify well there. This weekend was no different. I was surprised however that we could only get a 33rd place starting spot, but as they say, it doesn’t really matter where you start. It’s how you finish. I wasn’t too worried about being back there because I had some really good company – Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick – they were all behind me. Plus, I knew from practice that my car was pretty fast in race trim and when the green flag waved, my NAPA Toyota had picked up 11 spots by the time we made our first pit stop on lap 46. We were just a little loose, but on the long runs, it was pretty darn stout.

Then we got into a wreck. Surprisingly, it actually didn’t hurt our car as much as we would have expected. Michael even told the team during today’s team meeting that he was amazed we were even able to continue. He thought our day was done because our crash happened right in front of our NAPA pit box in Turn 4. That may have been a blessing since the team could see what happened and then with the help of our spotter, Ty Norris, as well as my input, the NAPA Know How Pit Crew was ready to work on the car when I pitted. We gave the pit crew a new nickname by the way.  Anyway, it took two services under caution to fix our Toyota and I was amazed at how calm my guys were. The toe was really knocked out and Allen Mincey, the NAPA team’s front end mechanic, looked it over and pretty much got it realigned. I even commented during a caution at how laid back he was.

I am just amazed at how good my NAPA Know How Pit Crew is. Just last week, they were named the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew. It is a quarterly honor and very prestigious. It’s voted on by all the crew chiefs. They also remain on top of the Tissot Pit Road Precision Award standings.

All and all our Darlington race seemed as if it was one of those night’s where nothing would go right. We got caught up in the wreck. We fixed the car. We were one of the fastest cars on the track the rest of the race. Then we had a transmission issue on the restart and it cost us a lap. We could never quite get into contention to get the lap back. We were so close, but when I needed a caution, it never came. What is so frustrating is we were as fast as the leaders all night long. We passed so many cars. We put on a good show for our NAPA fans so that was a good thing. We were so much better than a 19th-place finish, but we still picked up another position in the championship points standings. We are now 13th, one spot out of Chase contention. There are just 16 points separating the NAPA team from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team. That’s not bad considering we now head off to Dover – my home track and it’s the place where I scored my first Sprint Cup win.

As you all know, the last couple of weeks I have been on the Sprint All-Star Fan Vote campaign trail as the race is less than two weeks away. My Tried and TrueX campaign is going really well. I’m actually having more fun than expected. I’ve made appearances on NASCAR Smarts and NASCAR Race Day on SPEED. I’ve also visited The Sprint Experience. This weekend at Dover, I’ll be a guest on Trackside which will air Friday night at 7 p.m. on SPEED. But for the first time ever, I’ve actually shot some vignettes that are now appearing on You Tube. Feel free to check out my first two Vote for Martin: Tried and TrueX spots at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsDQt1tEYCY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Iij5tCXLg .

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