After the re-start, we found ourselves in a rather long green-flag period, causing us to think about our fuel supply, our tires, and how best to stay with the leaders. Jerry (our soon-to-be-famous crew chief) and I talked about it on the radio, and decided to come in for gas and four tires. Well, at Gateway, a green flag stop with rubber all around can lose you a lot of time-- So much time, that we fell back two laps from the leaders. Our thought was that THEY would have to pit soon, which in turn would even the field up… But, as luck would have it, the #99 truck ran out of gas, stopped in the middle of the track, and brought out a caution. We were pretty much stuck being two laps down.
At the re-start, we were at the front of the pack right next to the race leader. We jumped out in front of him, and we were able to stay there for about twenty laps or so. Eventually, they got back by us, and from that point on, our strategy was to race strictly for position. Jerry coached me through the rest of the race, letting me know who I was chasing, and what I had to do to catch them.
"At the re-start, we were at the front of the pack right next to the race leader."
At the end of the race we were in 9th position, despite being two laps down. The team as a whole felt pretty good about the effort, knowing that we caught a bit of bad luck with pit timing, but other than that, we still had a strong and competitive truck. Of course, having another top ten finish under our belt never hurts team morale, either!
The evening ended with my working as a crewman on Jason Leffler's USAC Silver Bullet car. Jason finished second, capping off a fairly decent weekend. Decent that is, until it came time for me to leave the track.
I've mentioned in earlier diaries how I believe our new hauler is the team's good luck charm. Every time we've had it at a race, we've done pretty well. This weekend was not an exception, except for the fact that when we lowered it off the leveling jacks to leave the track, the thing sunk up to the axels in mud. Well, we had to have a wrecker pull us out of the mud, and I had to put up with some good-natured ribbing from some of my colleagues. All I can say is "What goes around comes around".
Preparing for Memphis
This coming weekend we'll be racing in Memphis. I've had mixed results at this track, finishing 7th or 8th in 1998, and worked my way up to a 12th or 13th place finish in a backup truck last year. Memphis is a D-shaped half-mile, which will suit our drop-snout truck just fine. This is the same truck we raced at Bakersfield, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead, all with fairly decent results. The crew is working hard setting the truck up to turn well in the corners, where the truck is usually tight. We'll use a cool suit there like we did in St. Louis, and because we'll be there with the hauler, we are looking forward to doing quite well… but hopefully without the mud.
Volume IX Pages: