After having a week off, we rolled into St. Louis with the same truck we had here last year. To kick off the weekend's festivities, I, along with a few other drivers visited a children's hospital in St. Louis, and said hello to a bunch of kids who were a bit under the weather. We signed a lot of autographs, stood for a lot of photographs…and most importantly, in the end, everybody had a big smile on their faces, myself included.
Once we got to the track, we got unloaded and did the best we could in practice. The truck wasn't the fastest, but at least it was consistent. As I mentioned, it was the same truck we had here last year, with the only difference being that it had the new Silverado body style for 2000. Chevrolet really did their homework with this truck, changing (and improving) the aero package so that the front end had a lot more down force. The other difference from the prior year was the tire that Goodyear brought. It had a different feel to it, which forced every team to adapt their suspension setup a bit. By the end of the practice period, we ended up being 9th or 10th fastest, which is right about where we thought we'd be.
"The night before the race, the rains came to St. Louis and really made a mess of things in the area."
In qualifying, we clicked off a great lap, putting ourselves 5th on the grid. (Then, right before the race, NASCAR disqualified the truck next to us, moving us up to the fourth spot.) When fine-tuning the truck for the race, we had to pay some attention to the fender configuration. With the new body style, the team had a lot more down force, but you have to be careful because too much down force can scrub off straight-line speed. So as it ended up, we had what we thought was the right balance, but in hindsight, it would have been nice to have at least one more practice period.
The night before the race, the rains came to St. Louis and really made a mess of things in the area. About 14 inches of rain came down, and surprisingly, did little to change the track. It did however cause problems for our motor coach, which I will talk about a little later.
When race time came around, we had to wait out a last minute rainstorm, then, had the start delayed for just under an hour while they dried the track. Like I said before, it's amazing how well the track did under the circumstances. When the green flag fell, it took me a lap or two to get a feel for the truck, and what I felt I didn't like. Around lap four or five, the truck was so loose that I almost spun out, but then got shoved up to the high groove (which wasn't such a bad thing).
I decided to take it easy, and let the truck come to me. By the time the first round of pit stops came, I was in 7th or 8th, and felt pretty good about how the truck would be after some adjustments. We took on two tires, left the pits after a great stop by the crew, and didn't lose a spot. Not too shabby!
Ram Tough 200
200 by Pepsi Race Stats
200 by Pepsi Contingency Awards
Volume IX Pages: