Phoenix International Raceway produced a mixed bag of results for me. For the fifth time this season, I drove in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event. I really enjoy doing it and I think it helps with our Cup program too. The Toyota I ran had a Travis Pastrana paint scheme to promote the new partnership Michael Waltrip Racing and Gary and Blake Bechtel announced with Pastrana last Thursday. He’s an icon in the action sports industry, so to have him form a team with us is a win-win situation for all of us and NASCAR. He’s scheduled to run seven races next year so I look forward to working with him and wish him the best.
When I’ve driven in the Nationwide Series this year, the Diamond-Waltrip team has given me a top-five car. With that said, I definitely felt good about my chances. Our car started out pretty strong, but after the first green-flag run, the handling really went away. Not long after the halfway mark, I went into Turn 1 and had to pump the brakes. My car spun out and backed into the Turn 1 wall. It was a hard hit and we were done for the day. As a driver, I’d like to expect all the races to go perfectly, but in reality, it doesn’t always work out that way.
On the Sprint Cup side, it went better. We had a good NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. We qualified 11th and I was happy about the effort since we went out really early. Then during the race, we had a top-10 run going until we had a cut tire. We had to pit an extra time during the caution so it put us at the rear of the field on what would be the final restart. I wasn’t surprised to see the race go green at the end. Phoenix has a tendency to go green for long periods of time. It has gotten harder to pass over the last couple of races since the bottom groove seems to be head and shoulders better than the second groove. I’m not sure why that is but everyone prefers the bottom groove. In the end, the field spread out and it was tough to regain the track position we had lost. We ended up 15th. I thought we were going to end up better than that, but considering the bad luck we’ve been having, I’ll take a top-15.
I heard an interesting rumor on Monday when I got back. There is talk that Phoenix might get repaved and reconfigured. I am kind of on the fence about it. Phoenix is a great race track in my opinion. The surface is definitely worn out and has been patched up in some spots. But I like the worn out asphalt. I also like the unique layout of the place. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I’m sure they’re putting a lot of thought in deciding if changes are needed. I’m for whatever they decide. It’s a cool place.
Before I go, I want to congratulate NAPA and the Bill McAnally Racing team with driver Eric Holmes. They won the K&N Pro Series West championship on Saturday night. That’s pretty neat especially since my brother won the K&N Pro Series East title a few months ago. It’s safe to say a NAPA-sponsored car dominated those two divisions this season.
Now, it’s off to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race of 2010. There are three drivers who have a legitimate shot at winning the title. It should be fun for you guys to watch. I know I am looking forward to ending our first season together with a strong run!