As I write you, I am at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). I just met the outside retaining wall. I ran my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry into the wall. I hated that it happened but I felt really good about my car. I really needed to be here. I guess you could say it set our test session back a little notch, but I am really glad I came. Last year I did not get to run the road races. Terry Labonte drove my car. I haven’t been on a road course since 2006. I needed to warm up a little bit. We were able to run half a day before I got off the track. We learned so much. I like what I learned and what I felt. We have two cars up here.
VIR is really a cool place. This is actually the first time I have ever been here. I think we are running the north course. It’s about a 2.5 miles long. It takes about a minute and a half to get around. VIR reminds me a lot of Infineon Raceway. It is really tight, twisting and slippery. The difference between our two road courses on the schedule is that Infineon Raceway is like a short-track road course while Watkins Glen is like a superspeedway road course. VIR is definitely a short-track road course. There is not a lot of grip and a whole lot of turns.
Michael McDowell is also up here with me doing a little driving in the NAPA car. We also have some folks from Car and Driver magazine with us. The reporter is also taking laps in one of our NAPA cars. It’s going to be a big story. I will keep you posted when the article goes to print. We are really excited about the exposure NAPA will get through this multi-page spread. It’s very cool.
Speaking of McDowell, he is a real asset here since he’s raced here a few times. He knows where all the corners are and how to shift for them. He knows where to stop and go. When I went out the first time, I told McDowell that there were a whole lot of turns out there that he did not tell me about. He was coaching me. He is really buttoned up. He is running really well here. He ran a minute thirty and most people are averaging a minute thirty three. He definitely has it going on.
There are a bunch of cars up here. Gibbs, Hendrick, Ganassi, Red Bull, Gillette-Evernham, Bill Davis Racing, the Wood Brothers – all have cars up here. It feels like there are 40 cars out on the track.
Looking back at Dover, the Roush cars and Kyle Busch were really stout. The MWR cars could not race them as hard as we needed to. We just went out there and did our best. There is a tight line of being really good and really bad. We are on the wrong side of it right now. We worked really hard all day long to try and get every point we could. We made every lap we could. Two of our cars, the No. 00 and No. 44 had some trouble on pit road. The NAPA team just had a bad day that cost us some spots. We could have been so much better, but it didn’t happen for us.
We are now going to Pocono. We had a great test a few weeks ago. Our cars seem to work better on the flat tracks. That’s encouraging and I am glad that we will be racing there this weekend. Hopefully we can get all of our programs moving in the right direction. We were certainly very optimistic about how we started the season. It has sort of fallen into a little bit of a disappointment recently with the exception of Reutimann’s top-10 finish at Charlotte. I had a great test at Pocono so I hope it translates into a good finish when we go back up there.