All-Star Weekend

Hi Everyone,

What a weekend!

I want to thank all of you who casted a vote for me in the Sprint Fan Vote. After a long, hard-fought campaign, I did not win the Fan Vote … but I didn’t need it. The NAPA AUTO PARTS team went to victory lane Saturday night after winning the Sprint Showdown. It was awesome to race our way into the All-Star Race. Going into the deal, I thought we had a tough battle ahead of us when it came to earning one of the two transfer spots. Here’s why – on Friday the NAPA guys put a good car under me for qualifying and we were third quickest when rain blew through Concord. Four cars were left to make an attempt with really only one real challenger – Carl Edwards. Where I was sitting, we were going to line up no worse than fourth and in real contention of racing our way in. But after 10 p.m., NASCAR chose to cancel the remainder of the Sprint Showdown qualifying in favor of starting the NASCAR Truck Series race. That meant none of our times counted and the lineup would be the qualifying draw. We were going to start 20th in a 40-lap event … not good. I was worried because the field was stacked with drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton … you would have assumed were already in the race. Not so.

In the Showdown, we fought that track position and got real tight in traffic.  Pat made a few adjustments. We got two tires there during the first caution and got track position. Then it was just one at a time, picking them off.  They also was little bit of a skirmish with the 38 (David Gilliland) and that helped us open the door. Once we got up there to pass Biffle and got in clean air, our car got really good.  We took the win, but we still had some work to do for the All-Star race. It was awesome to get the win for NAPA and had a chance to challenge for a million bucks.

Our time to celebrate didn’t last long. It was time to go get the big bucks, but it wasn’t going to be easy as we were in the back again. This time we started 19th.  Track position at Charlotte is so important. During the race we ran mostly in the top 10. We did make a few adjustments on our car, but we had the same problems we had during the Showdown to really challenge for a top-five. But then the NAPA Toyota came to life during last two segments. The very last 10-lap deal, we got very good and were lucky. We were able to miss the big crash and when I got Kurt Busch in my sights with three laps to go, I could smell that cool million. If only I could have gotten to his bumper! We just got there a little too late. Everyone on the NAPA team did a good job, but we just ran out of time. Hopefully this weekend in the Coca-Cola 600, we’ll finish just one spot better!
         
Looking back at it all, I also won the Showdown in 2007. It was really big for my team and it really catapulted our season into winning and making the Chase. We challenged for five or six wins that year. Hopefully, this will kind of be that same start for the NAPA team. I feel like we’ve had a good season as a new team. We’re sitting 12th in the points and we’ve had some really good runs. I’ve been really pleased with Pat and the job he’s done with the team and throughout the races and the calls he’s made. Everything is really going well. It’s just a matter of us just getting better as a team and building up a little bit of a notebook. I like our chances and I think another win for NAPA is very much in our future.

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