Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday June 13, 2013
Since we last talked, we’ve gotten three races under our belts, and it feels like it’s been too long. Starting with Charlotte, we had a really good truck there. We played strategy — I talked to Jeff (Hensley, crew chief) after Kansas and we agreed that we have to play strategy every race we can. It almost paid off, too. We were good in the pack, and once we got to the lead, we stayed there for a while. But the cautions never helped us because we had a lot of restarts.
I had Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch behind me. I could hold them for a few restarts, but not all of them because Kyle had ten laps less on his tires than we did. I think I actually had older tires than the top 10 guys because I pitted before them all. I just hung in there, trying to finish the race and we ended up seventh. I was really proud of the effort, though, because we made the most of it and did everything we could to win the race. And actually, the next week while we were at Dover, Kyle Busch actually came to me and told me good job at Charlotte, it was really tough behind you. That means a lot to me to have Kyle come to me and say that.
Then we went to Dover with high hopes. Once we unloaded for the first practice, we were off — no speed at all. We made a big swing for the second practice and gained a lot. We ran fourth in the final one, so we thought we had a good truck for qualifying. But when we went to qualify, I was way too loose, and once we started the race, we went the wrong direction with the handling. In fact, we lost a lot of ground. We thought with the Cup cars having practice in, there would be more rubber on the track, but it went the other way. I started the race loose and after a few laps, it was crazy loose.
On lap 35, I lost a lap to the leader and after that, we made adjustments every pit stop. I was good for 10 to 15 laps but decided that we needed a big adjustment. We dropped the track bar all the way down on the last stop, but we were two laps down by then because the cautions never played in our favor to get our lap back. I was behind Ryan Blaney at the end of the race; we were together for 25 laps, and he finished third. It was too late for us to be competitive. We put Dover behind us; I was really frustrated, because you can’t have a race like that. It was a big mess to finish 18th, two laps down.
We went to Texas with high hopes and a brand new truck — chassis 600. We ran sixth fastest in practice and I knew we had a really good piece; it was was great in traffic. It was a race I was looking forward to. We made adjustments on our first pit stop under caution, but not long after the green flag dropped I radioed to Jeff that I was getting tighter. Then, on our second pit stop, the crew made adjustments but I still kept getting tighter and tighter.
I was running at the top of the track all the way around. I couldn’t drive to the bottom at all. On the last pit stop, at lap 140, we tried to loosen it up even more. But again, as soon as the green flag dropped, I was plowing tight. We restarted seventh — this was the first race we lost positions on every stop. I dropped to 12th before getting back to tenth at the end. As tight as I was, I never imagined I’d be able to drive back to tenth. We talked about the race afterward, thinking the problem was just a set of tires. But when we got back to the shop, we actually found a broken part. The track bar has a clamp that holds it in place on the truck and that clamp broke.
Because of that broken clip, the track bar was down four rounds, and every time we made adjustments, we were just putting the truck back to where it was instead of making improvements. Jeff has been racing for more than 20 years and he’s never had that clamp break on his trucks.
One day, things will turn my way — I just really want to win. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to be crying about our performances — but the way things have happened to us this season is unbelievable. I think it all started in Kansas, too. When you have a 30-something place finish, you get behind and have to work your way forward. You have to get those points back. And the way the championship battle has been this year, all the guys in the top 5 in points keep finishing really well and I keep dropping points.
Now, I’m 74 points back and I talked to Jeff about whether we had a realistic shot at the championship. He said it’ll be really hard for us; we have a lot of racing to go, and those guys could get some bad results. The only thing we can do is to win some races. And once you win, the points take care of themselves. That’s our plan from this point on. I always look at the championship battle every race. I don’t want to say we don’t have a shot at the championship because the leaders can have a tough race. One bad finish for them and a good finish for me could tighten everything up again. I just want keep my focus on winning and it’ll come to me, I hope. We’re running strong right now, so the win has got to be just a matter of time.
I’m really hoping Kentucky this month can be where we finally get that win. We’re taking the same truck we had in Texas last week — with a new track bar clamp, of course — and it’s a really good piece. Last year at Kentucky, I led practice and we started fifth. We were super tight or super loose in the race — that was the story of last year. The good news this year is that we’ve been spot on. When the race starts, I move forward; last year, I’d start well but drop through the pack and never recover. I’m pretty sure we’ll have a really good truck when we get to Kentucky. I love the track and I’ll have all the little things in place that we need to win the race. I do think we’ll be strong there.
Not long after we last talked, I received my Diabetes Forecast magazine at home. I started to read through it and came across a letter from a registered nurse about our article a few months ago. She wrote in and said that a guy with diabetes shouldn’t drink Gatorade or soda and that being a race car driver, I was setting a bad example because I drink them before the race. It raises my blood sugar — which is intentional. She said that racing with my glucose higher than normal can be dangerous for the other competitors.
When I read it, it upset me, especially since she was a registered nurse. That’s what a lot of people think, and that’s what’s so frustrating — people think I can’t drink Gatorade or Cokes, I can’t have chocolate or other candies — but it’s simply not true. You can have anything you want as long as you change it out and make adjustments elsewhere. That just really upset me to hear it coming from a nurse, but I’m over it now. Before I start a race, I do need to load up on my sugar to be good to go for the rest of it. It would be a big problem for the other competitors for me to run with my sugar too low but never when it’s too high.
Looking back to Mother’s Day, we surprised Patricia. I booked a hotel and all she knew was that we were going to the beach. Saturday morning before, we drove there and spent two days there. It was a lot of fun and she really enjoyed it; Oli enjoyed it even more. It was a little bit chilly for that weekend but it was still a great time.
And lately, we’ve been pushing each other to be more active, using the Nike Fuel band to track our progress. Every day, we battle — me, Patricia, my sister, my brother, my mom and our personal trainer. After my sister bought her Nike Fuel band, she’s beat us at least four days a week. She looks at her numbers and if they aren’t high enough, she goes to make them higher. It sure has been a lot of fun to try to beat our family and friends.
It’s a great way for us to compete and definitely makes us push ourselves even harder. I don’t know if you are familiar with it, but you set a goal for how many steps you want to take in a day. A typical person that works out and does more in a day than just your normal everyday schedule will have a goal around 3,000 — that’s what mine is. In a normal day, with going to work, your numbers would be around 2,000. You put your goal in and by the end of the day, if you’re close you know what you have left to do. And Patricia has started to walk home so she can get closer to her goal. It’s really a lot of fun.
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