Dover

September 29th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

We had a lot to be happy about at Dover. My Foundation raised close to $200,000 and my brother Ryan won his second-straight K&N Pro Series East Championship. I was hoping to top everything off with a win and I felt like we had a shot at it. If the race was 200 laps we would have been in good shape, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s just the way it goes and we’ll go back and try again. It is unfortunate that the rear axle broke. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often and for me, it was the first time an axle broke on one of my cars. What happened was we had a loose wheel under green. We pitted and put tires on it. It was just a combination of events where everything had to go perfectly wrong for it to happen. It ended our chances for a good finish. The good news is we were very competitive. We qualified third. We had good practices on Saturday. I felt really good going into the race. Pat did an awesome job tuning on the car Saturday and Sunday for us to start out of the box as strong as we did. The NAPA Toyota was really, really good. I wish we would have gotten to the end because we would have been racing for the win. It’s fun to go to the racetrack when you run like that.

This weekend I hope to have another good run to be excited about because our NAPA Toyota has a splash of pink on it to promote a very important program. NAPA is once again teaming up with Susan G. Komen All Out for the Cure® to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer. It’s the first time I have taken part in the program and I must say, I’m not one to wear pink, but for the Susan G. Komen All Out for the Cure, I will be happy to sport the color. The NAPA team is kicking everything off this weekend. We’ve got blue and pink hats available for race fans to purchase at their local NAPA AUTO PARTS store or AutoCare Center. They are just $3.99 and proceeds go towards the cause. Fans can also get the name of a loved one who’s been affected by breast cancer on our NAPA Signature Toyota by making a minimum donation of $5.60 by visiting www.napaonline.com or www.facebook.com/napaknowhow . That special paint scheme will run on Nov. 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.

It’s amazing the number of people who have come up to me now that I am helping with the program to tell me about someone they know that has been affected by breast cancer. I am proud to be associated with this program and the more people we can get involved the better. NAPA is making a generous contribution to help find a cure and I hope that by running the special paint scheme, offering up the Signature car promotion and selling hats that we can raise even more money. I also want to thank all the NASCAR fans in advance for stepping up and helping with this cause. I saw a guy last week at our NAPA Race Day Experience in Dover who had already purchased his All Out for the Cure hat. That’s awesome and I think it’s great that all of us — sponsors, teams and fans work together for a good cause.

Here is a photo of me checking out my NAPA All Out for the Cure Toyota. I look forward to driving it and hope to have a good run for all those people.

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Hunting in New Mexico

September 22nd, 2010

Hi Everyone, After the Richmond race, I boarded a plane with Ryan Newman to go bow hunting in New Mexico. Our excursion is going to be on an upcoming show that will air on the Outdoor Channel. It’s from the Driven to Hunt team, but they are revamping the show and NASCAR is getting involved. I really enjoy working with those guys and I like having the camera with us. It’s nice to go back and look at all the footage. Normally if you are all by yourself, all you have are memories. I like to be able to recount everything by looking at the footage. Fortunately for me, every hunting show I have done, I haven’t missed so my good streak continues. When I know the details of the airdate, I will let everyone know. Ryan and I stayed up all night on the plane. We got to Albuquerque, New Mexico around 3 a.m. We went to sleep and then got up in the morning and drove out to the camp which was about three hours away. Our plan was to spot and stalk in the morning. We got up in a tree stand and it wasn’t long until we heard them bugling. The guides were a big help. They made cow sounds to call the elk to us. We didn’t see as many as we heard. We were ready to hunt in the evening and the first night we chose to be by a watering hole. The watering holes were popular because it was so hot during the day that the elk needed to come in to drink. We basically sat back and waited for them. One thing I did not expect to see was a black bear and her two cubs. I have never seen a black bear before so it was pretty darn cool. They were about 20 yards from me. I also saw a coyote come in which I really didn’t care for because they scare all the deer and animals away. I saw a bull elk but he was too small to shoot. But Newman on the other hand, he killed a monster elk. It was his first one ever! It was 6×7 and 363 inches. For the place where we hunted, it was one of the largest they had on site. Congrats to Newman! Tuesday was my big day. We were back at a watering hole and it wasn’t long for my elk to charge in. He was chasing cows. He was bugling and screaming. He was putting on a real show that’s for sure. I think it will be great footage for the television show and it won’t be long for the coolers to start showing up at my house. My elk was 6×6 and 310 inches. He wasn’t the biggest elk I’ve ever gotten, but I was still proud of him. The way he came in was really cool. I have included a picture.

Before I go, New Hampshire was a decent weekend for us. The NAPA Know How guys did a good job of adjusting on the car and we made up a lot of ground through the middle part of the race. On the last restart with about 70 laps to go, some of the guys stayed out. We chose to pit. We ended up getting shuffled back a bit and were in some major traffic. We also had a couple of bad restarts where I found myself three wide and on the outside. The outside was the absolute worst place for my car. Up until that point, we made a lot of good progress and were running 11th. I felt pretty confident that we could race into the top 10 and have a good day. It just didn’t work out for us. It was a big improvement with our flat-track program. I am really encouraged because we were so much better in comparison to Richmond. This weekend will be a big time for my family. My brother Ryan will be going for his second-straight K&N Pro Series East championship on Friday. I am so proud of him and all that he has accomplished so far. When it comes to the actual Dover track, it’s a great place for me. I made my first Nationwide Series start driving for my dad. I won two Nationwide races. I got my first Cup win and then earlier this year, the NAPA team scored our first pole together. I am hoping we can back it all up with my first Cup win for NAPA.

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The Chase Starts & Foundation Golf Tournament

September 16th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

The Chase officially starts this weekend in New Hampshire with the field of 12 set. I know what it is like to be one of those 12 drivers and heading into the summer, I felt like the NAPA team was in good shape to make it. We had a lot of momentum going and then things started to happen that were out of our control. Infineon is obviously what comes to mind first. Regardless, we currently sit 20th in points, less than 200 markers out of the best finishing spot available of 13th place. It’s something we can accomplish because this NAPA team is a much better team than 20th.

Heading into the final 10 races of the season nothing changes from the standpoint that we are here to win. But what does change a little bit is our approach. We can take more chances now and use some of the track time as test sessions to prepare for next season so that we can improve our chances of making it in 2011.

One area that we will be working hard to improve is our ability to keep up with the track. It seems like we are really strong in the beginning of a race, but then our NAPA Toyota starts to go away at the midway point. Our car needs to be better heading into the final stages of a race. If we can improve that we should be in very good shape.

As for this weekend, I like our chances and it’s still a very exciting time for us as a team.

Coming up next Wednesday, I’ll be hosting my golf tournament. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been going on for three years. It seems like yesterday Sherry and I came up with the idea of starting a foundation. I want to thank NAPA for sponsoring the event. We’re hitting the links at the Sea Oaks Country Club in Little Egg Harbor Township in New Jersey. It’s about 30 miles from my hometown of Mayetta. Then we’re going to end the evening with the 19th Hole Dinner Celebration. The dinner is a lot of fun and we’ll be hosting our auction again. Last year Michael proved to be a really good auctioneer. Who knew, right?

I’m really proud of what my foundation has accomplished since Sherry and I launched it back in 2007. So far, we’ve raised more than $400,000 for a variety of community programs. This year we’ve got some new projects. We’re starting a backpack program for kids who go to the Troutman Elementary School in Troutman, N.C. We chose that school because it’s not far from where I live. Each Friday, kids who participate, will get a backpack filled with food and school supplies. We heard stories about some of the kids coming into school saying they were hungry and didn’t have much to eat on the weekends. I’m happy to say that on Friday the program will be kicking off.

We’re also getting ready to build a children’s wing at Southern Ocean County Hospital. It’s the local hospital where I was born. We’re calling it the Martin Truex Jr. Pediatric Unit. It’s going to be a really cool place where kids can go and get treated. We’re designing the place with them in mind.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone at NAPA and all of the fans who have made everything possible. It’s been very humbling to say the least. It’s great to see how we all can work together to make a difference. If you are in the New Jersey area next week or interested in finding out more, please visit http://www.martintruexjrfoundation.org.

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ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY 2

September 8th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day weekend. It was a beautiful day here in Charlotte. I spent all day Monday in my pool. Sherry, Lexie and myself kicked back and relaxed. I did take time out to call Dave Moody at Sirius Speedway. I wanted to let all the listeners of his show know about this month’s NAPA Brakes promotion. I’ll also be on Friday night’s Trackside show on SPEED to talk about it. I hope we can help sell quite a few more brakes for you! The paint scheme we are running this weekend in Richmond looks sharp!

Today we’re on the track at Gresham Motorsports Park to do some testing. We are running pretty well, but we just need to keep getting better so that our top-10 runs equal top-10 finishes or even better. The extra track time should help us.

It was an awesome weekend to race in Atlanta. The weather was perfect and it was nice to visit with everyone in the NAPA suite and Race Day Experience. Joining the NAPA Know How crew was Mr. Susor and his family along with Gaylord Spencer and his wife Terri. I enjoyed having them along for the ride. For awhile there, I thought we had a chance to meet up in victory lane when the night was over. I have to say, I am disappointed with our 12th-place finish. For the most part, we had a really good night. The final five percent of our evening wasn’t as good. The lowest position we ran all night was where we finished. We just couldn’t get the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota to handle the way we needed it to. We had some really good runs through the middle part of the race. We had some good restarts to get some track position. But right there towards the end, we seemed to find ourselves in the wrong spot during the last two restarts. We got jammed up. What a lot of people might not realize is Atlanta is probably one of the toughest tracks on restarts. It’s pretty common to see a lot of drivers spin their tires because the track is pretty worn and slick. There were a few times when the leaders checked up to make sure the guys behind them didn’t get a run going and if you have to slow down at all before you go to throttle at the restart, it is really hard to not spin the tires. That’s what hurt us in the end especially on the restart when we came out on pit road with the lead. Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon chose to stay out and were on older tires. I was behind the 24 and when we got into Turn 1, Jeff all but stopped. I got stuck behind him and it cost us six spots going through Turns 1 and 2. It really hurt us because the caution came out about two laps later. We all pitted and my guys did a 12 second spot. I was surprised that our fast stop didn’t gain anything. We went in ninth and went out ninth. Then the final restart bit us too.

All and all, the NAPA Toyota ran pretty darn good all night. . I wish we would have done better at the end, but we learned and gained a lot from the race. We keep getting closer. As I’ve said before, we are a new team and a work in progress. I really had fun on Sunday night! It’s all coming together so stay tuned!

Off Weekend

August 31st, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I hope everybody had a good weekend. I enjoyed mine and chose not to visit a race track since it was our final weekend off until NASCAR’s season finale in Homestead, Fla., on November 21. Sherry and I traveled with our dog Lexi along with my best friend Adam (a.k.a. Dupree) and his girlfriend to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s a little over 350 miles away from Charlotte. It’s a beautiful place!

We spent our first day relaxing and lounging at the beach. Dupree called a buddy of his to give us some suggestions on all the hot spots and he hooked us up with a charter on our second day of vacation. Our captain was Aaron Kelly. He’s a native of Kitty Hawk and has fished and surfed the area all of his life. He took us out on the Rock Solid — a 27′ center console with a tower. Captain Kelly recommended us to chase some amberjacks because I have never caught one before. They are big fish and can weigh up to 40 lbs. As soon as my first bait hit the water, I had one on the line and man, did it put up a fight! It took over 10 minutes to reel it in. In total we caught three more before heading inshore to try our hand at cobia. Cobia is an even bigger fish than the large amberjacks we caught. Sometimes they are even mistaken for a small shark. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck catching cobia so Captain Kelly put us on some redfish. I did well and caught a 25 incher! I’ve got a photo of that one for you too!

If you’re ever find yourself on the Outer Banks and want to go inshore fishing, give Capt. Aaron a call. Tell him Martin and Dupree sent you! He’s a great guide and he’ll have you laughing all day! Visit: www.rocksolidfishing.com

On our third day, Dupree and I went out on his boat. The fish weren’t biting so Dupree decided he wanted to go spearfishing for our dinner. We went out in about 30 feet of water. He saw a bunch of sheepsheads and even connected on one. He bagged about 10 total so we didn’t go hungry.

Now it’s back to reality. I’ve got my weekly radio segment on Sirius Speedway along with several radio call-ins to do to help promote the race for Atlanta Motor Speedway. The track has really been good to NAPA so hopefully, we can help sell tickets because they’ve got special ticket packages and plenty of events planned for fans so it will be a fun Labor Day race weekend. Come out and join us if you can. Plus, I’ll be signing autographs at the MWR souvenir rig on Sunday from 4:15 p.m. to 4:35 p.m. You’ll need to stop by the rig early because they’ll be handing out tickets for the session. The first 75 people who get tickets are guaranteed my autograph.

If you need race tickets, call the track (877-9-AMS-TIX) or go online at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Hope to see you there!

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BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY

August 24th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

On Friday, Michael and I ran into Ron Capps at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was a lot of fun to catch up with him as I haven’t seen him since NAPA’s Employee Appreciation Day back in March. Capps flew in to help the NHRA promote its Countdown to 1 playoffs and the upcoming race at the zMax Dragway. It’s a shame we won’t be able to see him race in our own backyard as we’ll be up in New Hampshire for the Cup race. He’s really wants Michael and I to suit up and take a ride in his NAPA Funny car. Maybe someday …

Our Bristol weekend was a disappointment. We practiced really well and our lap times on the long runs were impressive. There was no doubt about it. We had a fast car. Qualifying was no different. We got an early draw which was not in our favor. I laid down a qualifying lap that was over two-tenths quicker than practice and in the end, only eight cars were faster than us. I was really proud of that effort and it was my best starting spot for a Bristol Sprint Cup race.

I went to sleep on Friday night thinking this race could be it for us.

I woke up on Saturday and despite the rain washing all the rubber off the track, I still felt like the possible change in track conditions would still be OK for us. I went to hospitality and met our Honorary Pit Crew Member Chuck Bowles. He had no idea that his name was decaled on our car. His expression was priceless. He had one message for me – don’t get the car wrecked.

For the first-third of the race, we were really good. I really liked our chances. By lap 150, we were running down the leaders and the NAPA Toyota was the fastest car on the track. I thought we were maybe two or three small adjustments away from being able to take the lead. But around 250, we somehow lost the handle on it. Our car wouldn’t turn and was really loose. We were never able to catch up with the track. Knowing what we had at the start and then see it all go away was frustrating as well as confusing.

Also, Goodyear brought a new tire for this race so what we learned from the spring race was pretty much thrown out the window. The new tire caused the track to get rubbered up. You could see it happening because the track’s concrete kept getting black. I think the more rubber that was put down changed the conditions and who could adapt to it best was going to do well. Our teammate David Reutimann and his crew did a great job adapting all night. He went door-to-door with Kyle Busch for the win. That’s pretty impressive considering he was recovering from food poisoning.

Our night at Bristol is just one of those live and learn situations. Our NAPA team continues to show some serious speed. Pat and I are still building our notebook for this year. It was impressive to see this new team contend for a Chase spot. Unfortunately we hit a rough patch of bad luck and realistically, our chances to make it are pretty slim. Our focus now is winning trophies for NAPA and preparing for next season. We have a good grasp on everything and plan to do more testing. We’ve added North Wilkesboro and Gresham to our schedule in September.

This week has been quiet on the competition front since it’s our final off weekend of the season. I played in Larry McReynolds 9th Annual Celebrity golf tournament in Mooresville with some other NASCAR drivers like Kyle Petty, Scott Speed, Ron Hornaday and Regan Smith. You should have seen what Kyle Petty was wearing – he’s hysterical. All the money raised is going to some great charities, including SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now). It’s fun to have some time with those guys away from the track.

Now, Sherry and I are packing our bags for a last-minute trip to the coast of North Carolina. We’re going with a friend of mine and his girlfriend. We’re also bringing our dog Lexi. She likes to go swimming. Our plans are to kick back, relax and of course, do some fishing. I have to hand it to Sherry; she’s pretty good about arranging vacations where I can fish. She even likes to fish a little bit too as long as the water doesn’t get too rough. Hopefully the waters will be calm and she’ll be out there with me. I’ll forward some pictures of our trip to include in next week’s blog.

Until next week

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Credit: NHRA

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Michigan International Speedway

August 18th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

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!

Pocono

August 4th, 2010

Hello Everyone –

We really worked hard for that ninth place finish this past weekend in Pocono. I guess you could say we overachieved a little bit which is good. We had a tough Friday. We struggled getting ready for qualifying. When it was time to lay down a lap it wasn’t very good. Then on Saturday, we made a lot of changes and actually got pretty happy with our NAPA Toyota. Starting 28th and in the back at Pocono wasn’t the ideal situation, obviously. To make it even harder, the weather kept changing. It also rained on Saturday night so the track was green. It was a real challenge for all of the drivers over the course of the 500 miles. At one point we saw Jimmie Johnson dominating and then at the end of the race, he was behind us and we drove away from him. It took us a long time to get where we wanted to be but with 70 or 80 laps to go, we were in the top 15 and started to pick off spots. The pit strategy that Pat Tryson put into play really worked to our benefit. We were decent and able to stay up near the front. For the NAPA team to get a top-10 finish was a real accomplishment. I am proud of everyone and Pat did a great job calling the race. Hopefully we are back on the right track. If we can continue to do what we did in Pocono and take advantage of having really good cars then this NAPA team will be in good shape.

Last week JTG-Daugherty made two announcements concerning their team for next season. Obviously MWR has a technical alliance with them so it will somewhat effect our organization. I am sorry to see Marcos Ambrose leave. He has been a great teammate and has really been an asset to MWR’s road course program. I wish him success in whatever he decides to do.

Replacing Marcos will be Bobby Labonte. I think JTG-Daugherty Racing is a really good move for him. He’s got a lot of experience and has been with big teams in the past. It will be fun to see him in our cars and I think he’ll be impressed with our Toyotas and the resources he will have access to. He’s a champion so we know he’ll be able to bring a lot to the table to and help us continue to build upon the momentum we have going.

I am really looking forward to going to Watkins Glen. It is a good track and I’ve had some great runs there in the past. Of the two road courses we go to, Watkins Glen has produced better results for me. Earlier this year, the NAPA team ran really well at Infineon Raceway. We had a top-three going until we got wrecked so we didn’t get the finish we wanted there. But we had a very strong car and I think Michael Waltrip Racing’s road course program is really strong and a lot of that credit goes to Marcos Ambrose. He’s done a lot of testing for us and the experience he has has really helped us with our setups. I think our NAPA Toyota will be really fast so hopefully it will be a great weekend. I think we have a good chance at being up front and challenging for the win.

Brickyard 400

July 28th, 2010

Hello Everyone –

Going into the Brickyard 400, I felt really good about our NAPA Toyota. We were fast all weekend long. Starting 12th was a decent starting spot for us. We had an early draw of fifth which is a good deal at Indy. Going out early at 10 a.m. is an advantage because the temperatures are cooler and the longer the session goes, the hotter it gets. I’m not sure if there was much of a temperature change this time. It started out hot and it stayed that way. But our time held up pretty well, so I was pleased with our starting spot. We had two practice sessions after qualifying on Saturday and we remained fast. In Happy Hour, we had the fastest car and I told some people that my NAPA Toyota was one of the best cars I have ever had for the Brickyard 400. I was really pleased with how Friday and Saturday went.

The Brickyard 400 is a long race. It is such a different kind of racetrack. Most places we go, the tracks are fast and have a lot of banking. Indy has long, long straight-aways and flat, tight corners. It’s an extremely challenging place to drive especially when considering all four corners are completely different. It’s a difficult place to race in traffic and it’s all about getting good track position. The first half of the race we got the job done. We had a top-10 car, but then our race took a bad turn with about 60 laps to go. To start off, we had a little bit of trouble on a pit stop. Our jackman, Brian “Hootie” Chase, got hit. I want to send out best wishes to him and I am glad he is OK.  He’s got a strained hamstring and hopes to be back with us in a couple of weeks. Then the following stop, our backup jackman had a problem with the jack. He had a tough time getting it under the car so it caused us to slow down. It cost us six spots on pit road. We were put back a few more rows than we should have been. Then on the restart, somehow, they got jammed up in front of us. Indy is almost a one-groove track. The restarts there have a tendency to get a little wild. A few guys in front of me started checking up. I was the last guy in line. I was right on the No. 2 car’s bumper. I just got back into the throttle wide open and they started to jam up. I got into the No. 2 car and got the splitter way up in the air. After that, we lost all of our aerodynamics. It was such a frustrating day for us. Our NAPA Toyota was a really strong car. We never were outside the top 10 until the problem on pit road. I felt like if we could get a little bit better track position towards the end, we would have a shot at it. It wasn’t meant to be.

Our bad luck has been pretty much the story of our team over the last two months. Overall, we’ve been doing great. The NAPA Toyota has been running really well. We’ve been having a lot of fun, but we just haven’t been able to close the deal due to many circumstances out of our control. It’s just part of the deal and we’re working through it. We are close to breaking through and getting that first win for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. I’m hoping Pocono can be it for us. We’ll just have to do the best we can and hope everything falls into place. Stay tuned!

Daytona 2

July 7th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I arrived in Daytona on Thursday afternoon in time for practice. The way our NAPA Toyota was running, I felt really good about our chances for repeating our top-10 result from earlier this year at Daytona. We brought the same car we ran in the 500 because it was in really good shape. In February it was a really good handling car, but this time, I thought our NAPA Toyota was even better. Bottom line … we just need to get a little bit of luck on our side.

Over the course of the weekend, it drove about the same. It was really good. Our two practices were interesting especially with the new spoiler and restrictor plate. We were faster and had more horsepower. The track was a lot hotter, slicker and bumpier. It made the cars a handful to drive later in a run and in traffic. If you were put in the middle, it made things very difficult and we saw several teams having to go to back-up cars because of wrecks. I felt handling was going to be a huge issue for everyone when it came down to the race and it was. The guys that could handle well on the longer runs were going to be the ones to watch and they were for awhile.

Track position turned out to be critical for us during the race. Riding out in the clean air was a huge benefit. Our car ran really well in the bottom groove, but it seemed as if most cars preferred the high line. Our NAPA Toyota was really loose up there so Pat worked on getting the NAPA Toyota to handle better on top. We stayed out of trouble the first half of the race and were running in the top 10 pretty comfortably. Then the caution came out when Kyle Busch wrecked. We were in sixth place at the time and a piece of Kyle’s crush panel hit the front of our car. We were going to be OK. It didn’t do much damage. We just needed to fix the splitter braces. The repair put us in the back of the field, but we had to make the fix. The splitter would have just drug off the car. We were working our way back up to the front and got caught up in the wreck. It was unfortunate, but there really isn’t a lot we can do about that. It’s just the way it’s been going for us lately. We’ve had fast cars and just can’t seem to get to the end. For whatever reason, we can’t seem to catch any breaks.  It’s just a shame for all of these NAPA Know How guys. They’ve been working so hard. Our car was really, really good and we were really just biding our time all night and running in the top 10. We were just cruising. We definitely had something for them. All we could get out of it was a 35th-place finish.

Moving forward, Daytona is going to repave the track. I really have mixed feelings about it. It’s almost one of those things where you need to be careful about what you wish for. It is already a fun track to race on. With that said, it is also very difficult. I think when they repave it; we are going to wish that they hadn’t done it. In a couple of years, it will weather back in and it will get bumpy. It will be like it was before. But right now it is so rough. The cars are hitting the ground so hard that it is breaking up the racetrack like it did during the Daytona 500. They have to patch it up. We can’t have delays because we are knocking holes in the track. I think repaving will be good for everyone involved.

Now it is off to Chicago. I am looking forward to having a great run there. We know that we have some things to work on. I enjoy the track. It’s been a good one for me. I have had some really strong cars there in the past few years. Pat and the NAPA Know How crew continue to work hard so I look forward to seeing what we can do.

Before I go, if you have not taken advantage of NAPA’s Track Pass offer – you need to do it. I think it’s a great way to follow our team during the race. Just go to www.nascar.com/napatruexscanner or visit NAPAonline.com and link from there.  All you will have to do is register as a new user and you will have access to the in-race scanner between me and the No. 56 team. You never know, you might hear me sing the NAPA Know How jingle. Stay tuned!