Pocono

Hi Everyone —

Last week heading into Pocono, I had a very typical week in my life as a NASCAR driver. Monday, I taped my television show, “This Week in NASCAR.” Tuesday, I did my radio show and played a little golf. Then Wednesday morning, I woke up and flew to Canada to do an appearance at a NAPA store. It is so hard to figure and predict what kind of crowd you are going to have. Usually, we get a couple hundred people. I sit there, talk to the folks, cruise through autographs, and then I am on my merry way. For some reason, and I think it is because I consider myself as being one-eighth Canadian, when I got to Kingston, Ontario, there was probably over 500 people waiting at the NAPA store in the rain! The line was all the way around the building. I was shocked. I have never even heard of Kingston, Ontario, but they know me. It was so much fun to see all the people who showed up. I saw lots and lots of Dale Earnhardt fans. I signed more pictures of me, Dale and Dale Jr., racing at Daytona in 2001 than I have seen in a long time. It was really cool to see somebody walk up with that 2001 picture and have me sign it. Then, they would follow it up with a brand new NAPA diecast. It was just really, really fun. I want to thank all the folks in Kingston for coming out. I also want to thank all the people at NAPA in Canada for organizing such a well-planned and well-attended event.

When I left Canada, I went to Pocono on Wednesday evening. I got prepared for the running of the race. When practice started on Friday, I really liked the way the car drove. It just didn’t have any power on the straightaway. We discussed it. When I qualified, I felt like I made pretty good turns, but yet, I was 42nd. In Cup racing, it is so close. I was only three or four tenths off of being in the middle of the field instead of the back. I wasn’t all that concerned. To be honest, Pocono is a track where you can start a half a lap down and still be able to have a great day. It doesn’t matter where you start because the track is so big that you can work your way to the front. So when the race started, something just wasn’t right. It wasn’t long until the motor broke. I don’t think I have ever finished last for two weeks in a row. I don’t think anybody has. It’s so disappointing. Toyota has assured me that they are all over it to try and figure out exactly what went wrong. They spend a lot of money and take a lot of pride in what they put under the hood of our cars. I have no doubt that they will get to the bottom of it to make sure it does not happen again. The crazy thing is, the most disappointing engine failure I have had in my whole career came earlier this year at Talladega. You’ve heard me tell the story several times in my blog, but we had Talladega won on the final lap until the engine broke. The Pocono failure may have topped the Talladega failure because I really wanted to race at Pocono. I wanted to work on my car. I wanted to go fast, but I didn’t get the opportunity. We just didn’t get a chance last Sunday.

Despite the disappointments, I really feel good about where we are heading as a team. I believe we will be solid at Watkins Glen this weekend. At Michigan, we had a top-five car back in June and got crashed on the last lap. We didn’t get to show it, but we had a really good car. We had a run of four races that included a second-place finish and other solid runs. Running up front at Daytona on the last lap before getting wrecked showed some promise. We had four or five runs in a row where I felt like we were heading in the right direction. As soon as I started to feel that way, we got wiped out at Chicago. Indy, I got loose and spun out. Then this past weekend, the engine broke. We had some momentum going. We were proud of our results and now, we have had some problems. We have to just tune up and go to Watkins Glen and get it headed in the right direction. I hope, and I believe in my heart, we can go to Bristol with a chance to win. We ran well there in the spring, but our cars have come a long way since then. That’s a track that I love and a place where I think we can have some fun. So stay tuned, and thanks for your support during our ups and downs. Rest assured we are making a lot of progress with our cars. We are doing a lot of fun things on our competition side so I am really looking forward to getting back on track at Watkins Glen.
– Michael

Leave a Reply