So I'm trying to keep Saturday's results in the proper perspective. There were a lot of good things and really only one bad one. My first concern was hoping the engine would be okay after Thursday's incident. Fortunately everything was fine. I started the heat in 8th and quickly began moving up. Coming off on 4 I was inside Lorne Browe and the 0 car (not sure which one) and thought I was okay. Till the 0 got sideways and came down the track and slammed into my right side, sending me towards the pit road guardrail for the second time this year. Somehow I was able to keep it straight, and I ended up finishing second behind Bobby Knipe. We were very fortunate that the rear suspension didn't collapse. And then it was a waiting game. We finally got on the track after the fireworks show. I started the feature in 16th right behind Roy, and we both took off for the front. Lap after lap we were putting cars behind us. About midway through the race things started settling down, I was in 5th beginning to work on John Scarborough, when the caution and checkers came out on lap 11. I was really looking forward to the next 9 laps, I think there would have been some serious racing going on, but they decided that the night was over. So at least we were able to grab another top 5. Got a whole bunch of Stewart pics on the pic page.
Well it looks like Thursday night was a huge success, my performance notwithstanding. :) There were 60+ cars in the pits and a huge crowd packed the grandstand. Heard some grumbling about why there were no time trials. I guess there are pluses and minuses to each format. I kinda thought drawing for the heats would give everyone an equal chance. Personally I would have like to have had time trials, and I know Tony and Dave would have. :) Turns out Tony can draw about as well as I can, we both pulled 7th for our heats. Tony got to work right away and quickly got out front. He was driving Jack's back up car with a new Bedell 358 Mopar under the hood. I was in line waiting to go out for my heat, so I didn't get to watch. Heard he was pretty fast though, and won his heat convincingly. I knew I had some serious work to do in my heat since they were only taking 2 out of each heat. I was able to grab 3 spots in the first 3 laps, but after that it was trying to play catch up. I was able to reel in Buddy Christman running 3rd, but I had nothing for him. My sportsman motor is just no match for the 358's. The car felt great though, even though we were floating the valves a little bit in the heat. My 4th place finish put me on the front row of one of the consi's so I thought we had a pretty good chance of making the show. On the original start my car just wouldn't take off. I think Matt thought I got jumped so he threw the yellow. We came around for the green again and I knew I was in trouble. All I could do was try to get out of everyone's way. There was something definitely wrong with the motor, our night was over. In the mean time I guess the track decided to go with a heads up start instead of redrawing, Tony had the pole in the feature. He definitely had the car to do the job with, each time he could pull out to a 6 to 12 car lead. Blaney was 2nd for quite a while, but didn't have the set up to keep up with Tony. Andy Bachetti and Rich Ricci did an awesome job coming from deep in the field, but neither had what it took to get next to the GE car. For us it was a trip back to the garage and a day off on Friday to try and figure out what our motor problem was.
As I'm sure you all know by now, the 'Valley rained out again Saturday. Mixed blessings for me, I need as many races as I can get in to continue to climb in the points. It did allow us to finally start getting the small blocks into Tony's and Dave's cars though. We got them from Dan around 6 on Saturday and worked late Saturday night and most of the day Sunday to get Dave's done. We finished up Tony's last night very late as well. And today was spent at the track hosting my sponsor, Hoffman's Car Wash, at our annual ride and drive. In all, over 40 people we able to take laps at speed in mine, and several other driver's race cars. A pretty unique experience, illustrating why Bryan is so successful at finding and retaining great sponsors. The next two days will be spent getting my car into 358 trim so I can go play with the big boys Thursday night. We'll have to see if our program has enough to keep up with the big dogs. :)
Imagine that, we finally picked one off. I started in the last row of the heat with Roy. The car didn't feel as good as it has for the last few weeks. Didn't seem to matter though, we quickly found our way to the front. We made a couple of changes to the car for warm ups, but nothing we did really seemed to give me the feel I was looking for. So like the man said, "Just shut up and drive it!" Got my first break by having an outside row starting spot in 12th. The next break came when Don Miller didn't make the call, so I started 10th. Had some pretty wild action in the first couple of laps. Lots of cautions, which enabled me to grab a few more spots. The starter gets a little fed up with the whole caution thing so we go to a single file restart around lap 3 or so. By that point I had found my way to 4th place. And the lesson here is that just 'cause the car doesn't feel fast doesn't mean that it isn't. We were wicked good off the bottom of 2 and that's where I passed the 3 cars in front of me to take the lead by lap 5. From there on it was just a matter of keeping the car straight and bringing it home. Sure feels good to finally get one this year...
It seems like everyone wants to know all about the Busch deal, it's nice to know people are interested. :) Surprising too, to find out who reads the stuff I write here besides me. ( Hi B!)
Looks like the 'Valley was in over-achiever mode this week. In addition to 3 rained out features from last week, they had a full field of 358's. Of course that means no heat races for the Sportsman. :) I started the 1st feature in 15th. A couple of laps in, I made a run on the outside of 3 and got up into the loose stuff and lost a bunch of positions. The car wasn't that good, so I really felt I had to scrape and claw my way towards the front. It got harder and harder the closer to the front we got. Towards the end I managed to get by Bobby Knipe for 6th after a torrid 3 lap battle, and got greedy and gave the spot back to him while I was tying to grab another spot. Ended up 7th. Got to remember that patience thing....
I knew we had to make some changes to the car if we had any chance of getting to the front for the next feature. Normally I would be a little shy about changing the car that much, especially since we didn't get any warm-ups either. Jimmy and I changed about everything but the driver for the 2nd feature. I was handicapped to a 10th place start and it looked like there were some pretty decent guys in front of me, so I was looking forward to some good racing. I should have known better. On the 2nd lap it looked like there was gonna be about a 20 car wreck, and I thought I was going to be right in the middle of it. I checked up hard, and turns out they didn't throw the caution and I dropped to the rear in a hurry. And to add insult to injury, I had to spin the car to miss a guy spun out in turn 1, so now I was dead last. We've all seen what happens next before. <g> Got some red in my eyes and started passing some serious cars. Had one early caution on lap 6, and by the time the caution came out again on lap 15, I was in 6th. I can tell ya the changes we made to the car turned it into a weapon. I was able to pass Bobby Knipe and Sparky Lowe in the next couple of laps before we ran out of time. Ended up 4th.
Let's see....Last week we were in Charlotte, got sent home when qualifying was rained out. Made it home in time to get to the 'Valley, but that wasn't necessary, Saturday was a wash out. The Busch guys decided to go to Dover this weekend, so that was a bit of a surprise. Left here at 6AM Thursday to meet the boys and get the truck set up and the car through tech. Up at 5AM the next morning for qualifying. The car was pretty decent in practice, we were between 10th and 20th fastest for most of the day. And then qualifying got rained out again. This time only 43 cars were entered, so we made the show. Up at 5AM Saturday, go through sheets of checklists all morning. And wait for the rain to stop. We finally get on the track and the heim on the track bar breaks on the pace lap. We didn't even take the green. One of the most freak things I've ever seen. Help the boys load up and catch a plane to get back to the 'Valley. I figure I missed the heat at least, maybe the consi too, but arrived with about 30 minutes to spare. Started 8th in the heat and quickly moved to 3rd. A few laps later I was able to slip by John Hotchkiss for 2nd. And then the rain came. So it looks like double features next week.