So lets start with the good: I didn’t eat a gas can, and we got our 8th top 10 of the season. The bad is that it should have been a top 5.
Richmond is one of the places I was most looking forward to. It’s just a cool track I think, 3/4 mile with a decent amount of banking, it’s unique and usually seems to put on a good show. We got to the track on Thursday to go through inspection and get everything setup. We stay at a nice Westin hotel and there’s a good Mexican restaurant withint walking distance. Due to the schedue of the 2 day shows we did team dinner Thursday night.
And that seemed to produce a good Friday. We had good long run race pace in practice in both sessions, and top 5 speed in Q trim in practice. We ended up qualifying 6th, though we coulda/woulda/shoulda been second or third, the car was that good. But a good Friday, 6th is a good spot to start from, if the car was good in the race we could win from there. And just as important, stay out of trouble.
We knew all week that the forecast for Saturday looked bad, and it did not disappoint. The garage didn’t open until 1 pm and it rained all morning. If anything it picked up in the afternoon. Nascar got all of the cars through inspection, and fairly promptly delayed the race until Sunday. That was alright with me, we were scheduled to fly back to Denver Saturday night and then to Indy on Sunday. So instead we would just fly straight to Indy Sunday after the race.
It rained again this morning, but stopped shortly after we arrived at the track, and the sun even came out for a bit. I found out this morning that I would be catching the first empty gas can from the gas man during pit stops today. This is something that had been mentioned before, though I thought it was just the guys playing a joke on the rookie. Apparently I was wrong. This was also the first week I didn’t have anything to add to the pit box, which was quite nice. Just made sure everything was working and then back to the hauler for the pre-race meeting. After the meeting I got changed into Todd’s fire suit and shoes and headed to pit road. We started 6th and worked up to 4th the first run, the car was good. We ran as high as 3rd for awhile I think, and never fell below 6th or 7th. The pit crew was fast today, and I didn’t drop a single gas can! I was warned not to let them hit me in the head, as the gas man is a big guy and he’s in a hurry to get rid of the empty can and grab the second full one. And then we put on a bad set of tires. Of course we didn’t know they were bad at the time. We were running 4th at the time, and it turned out to be the start of a very long run. They made the car really tight in the middle of the corner, and Martin struggled and fell all the way back to 17th. We were a few laps from going a lap down when the caution flag finally flew. From there it was damage control, we made a few changes to the car and it ran much better on new tires. Martin worked back up to 10th, but that’s as much as we could get. It was a frustrating result given how well we ran, and the fact that we had a really good chance to beat the guys around us in points. It seems they are going to be very consistent and we have to take advantage of those opportunities when we can. As Gary said after the race, ‘you can’t finish 10th with a 5th place car, you have to finish 3rd.’
I am now flying to Indianapolis for a test that’s supposed to be 3 days (Mon – Wed) though the weather doesn’t look great for Wednesday. This weekend is Talladega which should be interesting…