Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday July 18, 2013
It’s hard to believe it’s time for another diary already. Time flies—it’s crazy. Since the last time we talked, we’ve been to Kentucky and Iowa. he last two races have been really solid for us. In both races, we’ve unloaded really close and made minor adjustments in practice. We tried some different things, but at the end of the day, we were pretty close to where we unloaded. I think Jeff and I have really been communicating well and that helps a lot.
Kentucky was some long green flag runs and we ran in the top 7 for most of the day. Track position was everything, and we never could get better track position. We started tenth and moved forward a little bit and that was all. Once you got a position, it was hard to pass someone unless you had a really, really good truck.
And then moving forward to Iowa, I changed my approach a little bit. Every time we get to the track, I go aggressively for the first two laps or so to get a feel for the truck. Basically the first lap is like a qualifying run. My first lap was our fastest in practice. The last time we were in Iowa, we averaged speeds of 23.50 seconds; on Friday we had three hours of pracitce, and on Saturday we had two hours—I never ran a 24 second lap. Every lap we ran in that spot. I changed my approach a little with something simple, but I changed my mind. We unloaded really close and were faster in the official practice on Saturday. When we went to qualify, I missed the pole by a little bit, but I felt really good about the truck. Once we started the race, again track position was everything. A lot of times I was faster than the 77 and the leaders, but once you got behind them, you got aero tight and it was hard to pass again. We lost some spots on pit road and that hurt us—we lost one each stop. We were running fourth before the last two cautions, and after the last caution, it was a wild restart and I got free. I got sideways and I was happy I was able to save it and finish seventh. It’s a little frustrating because we ran a lot better than seventh.
That tells a lot that we were able to have solid runs at two different places—a mile-and-a-half and a 0.8 mile race track and we’ve been fast for both of them. I’m super confident—when I was talking to Jeff and the guys earlier this week, I told them I thought this was the best season I’ve had so far. And as a driver, I’m super confident that every place we go to, we’re going to have a good run from this point on.
I’m not sure about Eldora but our plan is get as many points as we can and just finish the race. It’s going to be completely different, but we’re going to give it 100% for sure. Eldora will be a lot different for sure. We tested at 311 Speedway near Martinsville last Monday. It was a totally different experience. One thing I realized is that you don’t need to be completely sideways to be fast. I got used to it slowly, and by the end fo the day, I was running the same lap times as my teammates and also Kyle Larson. Sometimes he was just a little quicker than we were, but Kyle has a ton of dirt track experience, and Ryan Newman, who also has dirt experience was running two-tenths faster than we were. It’s super hard to drive those trucks. I told Jeff that I changed my scale of being loose—now free is neutral and neutral is tight. We ran well and I think we’ll be okay in Eldora. It’s a lot different race track than 311—a lot more room, more grooves and lanes we can run—but our plan is to get as many points as possible so we don’t hurt our championship chances.
I think we’ll have a lot of wrecks when we’re in Eldora. It’ll be wild for sure. We ran five trucks at 311 and once you were behind a guy, you could barely see. I can’t imagine what it will be like with 30 trucks at Eldora. We just need to make sure that we play smart and that’s going to be the hard thing to do. We’re also running five trucks at Eldora—Ryan (Newman), Kyle Larson, me, Jeb (Burton) and James (Buescher). The good thing about that is when you have teammates like them that know a lot about dirt racing, it helps a lot. Ryan and Kyle talked a lot during the test and it helped a lot.
After Eldora, we’ve been good at quite a few of the race tracks coming up. Pocono we did well last year—I started third and was running in the top 10 before we got caught in an accident. We ran well at Michigan last year and led practice. We have the road course and a lot of the mile-and-a-half tracks that we’ve run really well at. So from this point on, we are moving forward. I just need to be cautious while we’re there.
Slowly, but surely, we’re working our way up the championship standings. We’re always looking for a win. I still have my goal that I need to win before the road course. We still have a few chances from this point on. We aren’t making ground on Matt Crafton, but nobody is. I’m 34 points behind Jeb in second place, so we are in the hunt. I don’t like to talk about it, but if it weren’t for Kansas and I had finished fifth, we should be 12 points behind Jeb right now and not 34. I should be third or fourth in the points, but we’re still in the hunt and have a lot of races to go. We’re still two races from the midway point in the season, and we just need to play it smart. You can’t have bad finishes. A perfect example is Brendan Gaughan—he was third in points and now he’s ninth with just two bad finishes. You can’t afford that. We’re having good runs but we need to win races to be able to move forward and make points on the leaders. So far, though, our consistency is important. Last time we talked, I wasn’t sure if I could say we were still in the hunt, but now I can say that yes we are. 38 points isn’t a lot to get to the leaders—it’s just one bad race on their part. We’re only five points from sixth, so everyone is pretty close.
Moving off track a little, we got to visit the Louisville Slugger museum when we were in Kentucky a few weeks ago. I don’t know a lot about baseball and the guys were so nice there and explained everything about it. They showed me bats from 40 or 50 years ago and how they’re made today. Now it takes only about 30 seconds to make a bat with the machines they have today. They talked about the professional players, what they like and the different kind of bats. I got a little interested in the sport. Every time I see something about it on TV, I stop to look at it. Before, I would just move right past it and not pay attention to it. Oliver really enjoyed himself too. He got a bat with his name on it and I got one too. I won’t say that I’m a fan of the sport, but I’m definitely paying more attention to it. As soon as I understand the game a little better, I’m going to start watching. We don’t have baseball in Brazil but since I don’t know the rules, it’s hard to get into it just yet.
Then we were in Iowa and I got to visit the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Resarch Center. It was a huge deal for me. The FOE donated $25 million to diabetes research in Iowa. The money is all for finding a cure, researching all the different types of diabetes and hiring the best doctors in the world to work together. One of the doctors moved from Ohio last week and brought students with him to work there. He has the budget to hire whoever he wants to work together. He explained it to me; he said “before when there were studies all over the country but we weren’t together, so sometimes it took longer and there were miscommunications. Now we’re going to have the best of the best in one place and have the funds to do the research.” It was the first time that I felt like we could really find a cure. We talk about it a lot, but you can never really see something. There’s all these studies but nothing really tangible that we could see. We had dinner later and he filled me in on what the upcoming plan was. It was a great time to be there with the Eagles and I’m so grateful for them to have donated $25 million. That is a lot of money. They’re putting together a nice building that’s opening in Spring 2014, and I hope to be there for the inauguration as well. everything was so nice that I thought ‘Man, this is like a dream.’ I was glad to have Oliver there and to have Pati and maybe see the cure in the next few years.
We got to see the University of Ohio hospital and they talked a lot about diabetes, and I did learn some things. One of the professors is studying Type 2 Diabetes and all of the complications that diabetes can cause for the body over the years. Long story short, he told me how the super high and super low sugar levels can be saved in the cells’ memory. You can actually damage the cells if those levels are out of their normal ranges. It was really good information to know about. Every day you go through your lows and your highs in the readings. And it’s nice to know those studies are there so you know what the long term effects are. The studies have shown that you can have a normal life these days. I’m just hoping they can find out more and more so Oliver can grow nice and healthy in good shape.
Speaking of Oliver, he’s growing so fast. Now is such a fun age because every day he does something different. Everything we say, we have to be careful because he repeats like a bird. He’s so smart. He goes to the pantry, opens the door, turns the light on, chooses what he wants, closes the door and turns of the light. He’s super organized—if he sees something on the floor, he picks it up and throws it away. It’s just awesome. If he sees a door open, he closes it and turns off the lights. We’re really enjoying him. Earlier this week, Patricia put in Pocoyo Gangnam Style and Oliver was wearing his sunglasses and dancing and jumping. Patricia was really enjoying it too. I was reading emails in the office and I heard them and decided to go join them because they were so loud. We’re having a lot of fun and enjoying his age.
He did just the cutest thing while we were in Iowa. While all of the trucks were going through inspection, Oli pushed all of the trucks through tech. All the guys were calling him over, so he kept going from one truck to another. I think he spent an hour and 20 minutes pushing trucks. He’d wait with the guys and then push the truck. I think everyone in the garage knows Oliver, so he was comfotable with his bottle of water walking around. It just amazes me how much he’s grown so quickly!
Next week, it’s my sister’s birthday on Thursday and mine of Friday. My sister and mom are coming into town and we are going to Miami for our birthdays before coming back for Pocono and the next stretch of races. We’re going to get out and enjoy the beach a bit and enjoy some of this hot weather.
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