Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday August 8, 2013
I don’t have a whole lot of news from the recent weeks since we last talked, but we’re not too far off from getting into the silly season here where announcements will start to come.
Something cool that I did get to do recently was go to the inaugural truck race at Eldora. It was a fantastic experience—I had been to Eldora twice before for the Prelude to the Dream races, so I knew what to expect, somewhat, from the track. But I didn’t know what to expect when we got the trucks out there. Both Steve (Turner) and I were very pleasantly surprised with the competitiveness and how well those guys did—all of them, not just the TSM guys but the field as a whole. We had a suspicion there might be more spin-outs and wrecks than there were, but I felt like it was a really good experiment and we might need to look at doing more of it.
I’ve heard some of the complaints about people not liking the heat races to set the field, but on the other hand, it’s part of what made the whole night unique. It added an element that we’re not used to on the NASCAR side. I wouldn’t have changed it. I feel like expanding the idea of heat races to other events could be a possibility if it’s reasonable. As team owners, if we’re going to built dirt trucks, test them and learn about their competitiveness, adding a second or third event means we get more out of the testing and research and development investment.
I wouldn’t want to see them six races like that, but I thiknk the sweet spot is somewhere between one and three. I’d like to keep it to the Truck Series—I think it’s really well suited for it, and I think it brings a lot of attention to the series that it doesn’t normally get.
I wasn’t in Pocono because I was in Iowa for the Nationwide Series race, but we did have Todd Bodine in our fourth truck last weekend in Pennsylvania. Todd has talked to us off and on this year about running in the No. 30 truck, and we were able to put together the sponsorship in order to get him in there at Pocono. We have a ton of respect for Todd—he’s a member of our family. He hasn’t raced for us before but he’s a driver coach for Nelson Piquet, Jr., and he’s just an all-around great guy and a great racer. It was good to see him being competitive, running up front and having a chance to win the race at Pocono. It was heartbreaking that we didn’t win the race, but I’ve spoken with him and he agrees that he did what he needed to do and proved that he can be competitive.
It was good for us to have another champion in our trucks as a check to make sure our equipment is where it needs to be. I think Todd was very pleased with how the weekend went—he loved the guys that he worked with and recognized their hard work. He liked the truck and overall, it was a big success. We would run Todd again—and we would run him full-time—if we could find sponsorship for him. He’s looking for sponsorship and we’re looking for sponsorship for him.
I’ll be heading to Watkins Glen on Friday for the Nationwide Series race weekend. Historically, we’ve done pretty well at road courses. Justin (Allgaier) finished second at Road America a few weeks ago, and Nelson is a great road racer. Kyle Larson is good pretty much anywhere he goes. I feel like we’ve got three really good bullets in the chamber, and I’m very optimistic heading to Watkins Glen.
Moving down to our development drivers in the K&N Series, we’ve had some pretty impressive talent behind the wheel. Kenzie (Ruston) had a good run in Iowa, and Dylan (Kwasniewski) was having a good run until he got a bad set of tires at the halfway point. They had an issue with the tires at Iowa for the series—they didn’t really have consistent sets for all of the drivers. It was the luck of the draw, and Dylan ended up with a set that wasn’t as good as his first set. That was a little disappointing. Ben Rhodes had a really good run going as well—he’s an up and coming driver for sure. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him.
Having these drivers that are included in the NASCAR Next program is really going to help them along. We’re already looking at our lineup in K&N especially because that’s where it all starts. We want to see if any of those drivers are ready to move up, and if they are, we’ll try to make a spot for them either in the Truck Series or in the Nationwide Series if they’re ready to hop over the trucks. That will be a lot of our focus over the next two or three weeks. We’ll see if anyone is going to move up to the next level.
We’ve been in the news a bit with the focus on Ashley Parlett’s dream of becoming the first female crew chief in NASCAR. Ashley has been a very well respected in the garage for as long as I’ve been around—at least five or six years. She went to Eldora with us and helped Trent Owens with Kyle Larson’s truck, and she probably worked harder than anybody there. They all worked hard, but she really worked hard and impressed a lot of people that weren’t used to working with her. She volunteered her time to go. She is a racer through and through—she loves it, lives it, breathes it. It doesn’t matter what series it is—she’s 100% into it.
I think at Indy she fueled one of the Grand-Am sports cars. Any chance she gets to be around, near, underneath or on top of a race car she takes it, and that’s what she needs to do in order to move up the ladder. And she will…it’s only a matter of time. She’s had offers but none that she thought would put her in a position to succeed long-term as a career, and she’s smart enough to wait on the right offer. It’s just a matter of time before it comes because she’s extremely capable and a good person. When she’s at the race track, she’s constantly in the moment.
Let’s move off track a little so you can get to know me when I’m not working on the racing stuff. This week, I’m out in Colorado—I have a small ranch out here. I’m just regrouping and getting ready for the silly season because we’re going to be wide open from here on out trying to finish this year out and getting ready for next season. I’m doing some hiking, four-wheeling and enjoying myself before I head off to Watkins Glen. I like to hunt, go off-shore fishing. When I’m not racing, I’m usually on the water or out here in Colorado.
Something that people might be surprised to learn about me is that I can be just as happy doing a board presentation as I can feeding hogs at my buddy’s farm. My interests are pretty diverse—a lot of people try to put me into one little niche, and when they see me outside of a typical setting, it’s a little odd for them. It’s kind of hard to pick out something that others might be interested in since I already know everything about myself.
When it comes to heading out to the track, I do have my favorites. Bristol is a favorite, Talladega is a favorite. I know it’s a little odd as an owner, but it’s definitely a favorite. I’m a South Carolina boy and I like the feel, the atmosphere and the mentality at Darlington. The attitude of everyone from the hosts to the security people to the track owners is a great feeling. I think it’s an underrated track. If you ever get to visit there, you’ll think back to this statement. It’s a track where the driver has a lot of control. He’s got to race that track and stay on it each and every lap. In my opinion it’s one of the tracks where the driver can make a huge difference.
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