Dover 2

Hi Everyone —

How about Dover! Our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry ran really well. I am so proud of our top-10 finish. MWR is really coming together. Reutimann has had a couple of top 10s going and almost had another one, but had a problem in the pits. Our results are showing that we are making progress. Last year, our NAPA team had a couple of top-10 finishes. We believed we were building on something special. But when the season started, we got off in a bad direction. Our cars just did not work right. But now, the team — Eric Warren and all his engineers, Bobby Kennedy, Ryan Pemberton, and Mike Clark — our entire organization has come together. We have new cars we are racing. We have been in them for about a month. We made a big deal about these Gen 3 cars and they really have helped our performance. It’s been a lot of fun to see all our hard work pay off in respectable finishes.

Overall, our practice and qualifying results really have not reflected how good my NAPA Camry has been. When you look back, at Richmond we unloaded fast. We were in the top 20 all through the race runs in practice. We put on tires and ended being 12th fastest. I was very happy when I left Richmond that Friday evening because I knew when I got back on Sunday; we were going to be good.

A week later at Loudon, I couldn’t drive my car at all. The NAPA car did not feel like it had front tires on it. It felt like I was the slowest car out there. Bobby Kennedy spent Saturday after practice looking through all his notes. He looked at the notes from the older version of our car that we raced back in June that scored us a second-place finish. He incorporated all the things that were different between the old set-up and what was in the new car. He changed it all back to what was in the old car. When the race started at Loudon, the guys fixed it. The NAPA car was good.

Dover was another interesting story. On Friday, I just couldn’t get it. I pushed. When I qualified, my car was way too comfortable. It was tight. I didn’t think my car was going to be that slow. I ended up qualifying 40th. Saturday morning started and in the first practice, we ended up in the 30s. The second practice also saw us end up in the 30s. But in the last 10 minutes of Happy Hour, a lot of teams went out on fresh tires. They went out to see what they had. The best time I saw out of anyone was a 24.20 (seconds). We ran a 24.30 (seconds). I knew my car was right. I told the guys we were going to race on Sunday because I had the feel and the speed I needed.

One thing you need to remember is while the monitor tells a story, sometimes it tells different kinds of stories. Sometimes the story is straight up. The monitor reflects the kind of day you are going to have. Other times, it does not. I felt pretty confident when I went to bed on Saturday night that I did not have a 30th-place car.

Another story I would like to share with you is if you look back to Dover one year ago, we started last and raced up to 15th place. We had a pretty competitive car and we didn’t have power steering. We also had to share a pit. Then back in June, we had what seemed like the worst car there. We couldn’t pass a soul. We ended up finishing 28th.  On Sunday when we made our first lap, Kurt Busch crashed to bring out the first caution. In that one lap, I passed three cars. I called Bobby Kennedy on the radio and told him, ‘I passed more cars in the first lap of the race than the whole time we raced at Dover in June.’ I was pretty impressed with my car, my team, and all the adjustments made. We were ready to go when the green flag flew for the second time around. It was a lot of fun on Sunday and I am very proud of our top-10 finish.

Up next is Kansas. I can’t wait. I believe we will run well. I was terribly disappointed with our performance at the Auto Club Speedway, which is banked like Kansas. I took a brand new car out there and we ran horribly. Fortunately, we did learn a lot of things there. We took what we learned and applied it to Dover. It worked. Now we are going to another banked track out in Kansas and I believe we will keep this positive momentum going. It sure is a lot of fun!

Stay tuned and I’ll talk to you next week!

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