Last week Sherry and I took a few days off and went to Traverse City, Mich., to visit friends and family. We did a bunch of small-mouth bass fishing and wore them out! We had a great week and it was a relaxing way to gear up to a good weekend on the track for both me and my brother Ryan.
Can I just tell you how proud I am of Ryan? He did a great job at Michigan. He never raced on a track that size before. Last Thursday he got up to speed quickly. He gave great feedback and pretty much went out there and took to the track with ease. I don’t think any of us expected him to go out and qualify like he did. He laid down a great lap and for quite awhile was on the pole until Brad Keselowski knocked him off the top spot. He started second and ran there for a long time. It was also the first time he ever had green-flag stops during a Nationwide Series race. He drove smart and despite the car losing some of its handling on the first two pit stops, it got better near the end of the race. He learned a lot racing around a lot of cars and finished 12th. Carl Edwards walked up to my dad and told him how much he enjoyed racing him.
A funny thing happened when I was signing autographs at one of the gates at this past weekend. This one girl said, “Thanks, Ryan.” I haven’t told him that story yet, but it isn’t going to be long until he’s got his own identity in NASCAR.
Our Michigan race was really interesting for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. It reminded me of the Pocono race. The sun would go in and certain guys would be fast. The sun would come out and it made an impact on some of the guys. One minute they’re fast. The next minute they’re slow. I think it showed us how sensitive our cars are to change. We had a really good NAPA Toyota at the start of the race especially after the first pit stop. The car really took off. We were catching the leaders and were fourth when we pitted. We had a little trouble on our stop and then the adjustment we made didn’t work out so well. We really struggled during the third run of the race and I can only guess that the short rain shower caused our car to really get loose because we lost a bunch of track position. We went from fourth to 20th. Fortunately, our car was really good so we recovered and had a good day.
I was really proud of Pat. He called a good race. He made a few gutsy calls and it all worked out for us. On one of the cautions near the end, Pat kept me out on track because we only had a few laps on our tires and if we pitted for fuel, we still couldn’t make it to the end. I think a lot of those guys that pitted, hoped for a long caution and gamble on fuel mileage. It wasn’t an option for us so we stayed out. It allowed us to jump from 12th to second. We also led a few laps. In the end, the caution was thrown again and we all pitted for fuel and tires. Our car was good and we worked really hard to finish eighth.
Before I go, I launched a new Web site www.mtjauthentics.com. If you are a NASCAR fan and an outdoors enthusiast, please take a look at it and let me know what you think!