Race 17, Michigan
It feels good to be
on a bit of a roll...We've now clicked off two straight top tens, and
I'd like to think we've got the monkey off our back.
The team made it to
the track on Wednesday, where NASCAR had another one of their "optional"
test days. What that means, is that NASCAR opens up the track for the
teams to practice all day, without any restrictions. It's an entire day
of practice before the regularly-scheduled practice and qualifying sessions.
All in all, it gives all teams a chance to work on getting their trucks
All Chevy teams were
having a tough go of it from the start. The aero packages required by
NASCAR caused an excessive amount of front downforce, which slows down
the trucks on the straights, and makes the back ends very loose in the
corners. If there's one thing you need to be competitive here at Michigan,
is speed on the straights.
By the time Thursday
morning came along, we were able to make a few changes that seemed to
make the truck a bit more stable. We got our practice time in, then waited
for Friday. In qualifying, we made a pretty good effort. I felt comfortable
in the truck, and was able to keep the pedal mashed to the floor the whole
way around the track. Our time put us 12th on the grid, which was not
as good as 11th, but better than 13th.
Happy hour came along,
and we thought the demons were going to bring us down again. We just got
out onto the track when the engine blew. Jerry (our soon-to-be-famous
crew chief) and the guys did an awesome job of scrambling to get the engine
out of the backup truck and into the primary truck. The new engine was
the one used at Nazareth, but we weren't sure how well it was going to
do at this track. I guess we had to wait and see…
Just before the race
started, Jerry and I sat down and talked about how we were going to approach
this race. With a question-mark under the hood, we weren't sure if our
original strategy was going to work. So when the green flag fell, we just
decided to ride along and take things as they came to us.
Once the race started,
I felt good, and was able to move into the top ten. Fortunately, the race
was completely un-eventful for us. No crashes, spins, or bad pit stops.
We were able to motor along in the top ten all day, without being lower
than 13th the whole race. Jerry and I were able to talk back and forth
as the laps went on, discussing how to dial the truck in even more. It
seemed to get a little better, and when the checkered flags flew, we were
in 9th place (and VERY happy about it!)
This was a very good
weekend for the team, and an even BETTER one for me. In case you haven't
heard, I dropped down on one knee and asked Amy East for her hand in marriage.
She's meant a lot to me this past year, and I feel like I'm the luckiest
man in the world to have her by my side (when she's not doing pit analysis
for ESPN). Stay tuned for future announcements on the wedding plans, and
I'll make sure all of you get invitations!
Next Race: IRP
Park is one of those tracks where I've always ran well, but never finished
well. Last year we lost our radio communications at the green flag, and
ended up wrecking out of the race towards the end. This year, we're going
to double-check all our radio wiring, and we're going to "rent" the Busch
Grand National pit crew from Jason Leffler to help us drive to a victory.
Because I now live in Indianapolis, a win here would make the drive home
(short and) very sweet!