Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday August 22, 2013
Last time we had an update, we were headed off to Eldora, and even though it was a while ago, I still want to talk a little about it.
Eldora was a unique experience for my career. Even though we tested a few weeks before the race, no one knew what to expect. I remember when the first trucks hit the race track, everyone was watching and wondering what was going to happen. I got more comfortable between the first and second practices, and I think we did a good job. We qualified 12th—when the race started, we knew what we needed, but the caution never came for us. If I’m not mistaken, we ran the whole first segment under green and I ended up a lap down. From that point on, it was hard to get a lap back. My truck was really good but couldn’t pass anyone. I couldn’t even race side by side. It’s one of those deals where you learn a lot the first time, it’s better the second time and the third time, you can compete for a good finish.
There were so many guys that were so good on the dirt, and my goal was to lose as few points as we could. It was hard on us. It was a great thing for the fans and I love that, but as a driver, it’s something where I need a little more confidence. It was fun but I have a lot of fun on asphalt. It wasn’t my favorite, but that can change with time. Right now, another trip to Eldora is not on top of my list.
Moving forward to Pocono after Eldora—the first year in Pocono, I finished 17th. Last year I qualified third and ran in the top 5 for most of the race before finishing 12th when I got a little loose and lost a lot of spots in the last few laps. This year, I started on the pole and finished second. It was a really, really good weekend for us. We were fast right off the truck, fastest in practice and got to start from the pole. It’s a little frustrating to finish second. but we’re lucky to be running so well that we feel disappointed with second.
Last weekend, we raced in Michigan and it was another strong run. My first year there, I finished third and last year I finished tenth. This year, we were super strong. We took the same truck we ran at Pocono, and I felt comfortable during practice. We stuck with our plan—my setup was a bit different than Jeb and James. I thought the truck would be a little better in qualifying, but we qualified eighth. As soon as the green flag dropped, we were fast and we were able to move forward.
Once we got the lead, we were able to maintain it. Unfortunately, there were a lot of cautions for a lot of debris. Every time a truck that had had a problem came back to the track, there was debris on the race track. One thing I was a little disappointed about was the way NASCAR didn’t penalize Kyle for one of the late restarts. He was half a truck ahead of me. That’s where I lost the lead, and from that point on, I was just riding. Starting on the bottom on some of the other restarts was really hard, and in the end I did everything I could to make up those positions.
Michigan is a little like Daytona, so you need to time your passes, and if you lift from the gas, you’re going to lose a lot. I ran a good race, and I think we’re playing smart and aggressive this year. We’re getting better and better and closer and closer each week. It’s tough to restart with Kyle Busch—I beat him twice, but he’s been doing it for so long that he’s just good. I’m glad I was able to lead some laps and could run so strong. All my guys are really pumped and happy, and they want to win. It’s awesome to have a weekend like we did in Michigan.
I really don’t know what Kyle meant about playing games on restarts. I have between the two marks on the wall to make my restart. I think my first start was so good that I cleared him before turn one, and maybe that made him mad. He was carrying more speed trying to pace the restart, and I was carrying the speed of the pace car. If you look at it, he was in front of me, and on the restart we were even. I feel like I was slower than he was. But Kyle knows how to do it, and he’ll do everything he can. I learned a lot at Pocono and Michigan. I learned a lot to use in the next races. I’ve improved a lot between last year and this year on my restarts. We had a meeting about losing so many spots on the restarts, so I’ve been really working on it. It’s those little things that you realize you can do as you learn more.
We had a pretty eventful trip to Bristol. Before we even hit the road, I went to get the motorhome at 7:00 in the morning and we had a flat tire. We waited three hours for the tire to be changed, and eight miles from Bristol, we got a leak and the engine temperature went way up. It took over 2 1/2 hours to fix it.
In just a little over ten days, we’re headed off to Mosport in Canada. I’m really looking forward to it. We tested a brand new truck at Virginia International Raceway. Turner Scott Motorsports built three brand new trucks for me and my teammates, and the test went really well. I feel very confident on the road courses. It’s like when you go back home—you turn left and right and downshift, something I’ve done all my life. I feel like we should have a shot at the pole and at the win. It’s hard to say before practice where you’ll be at when you hit the track, and I know there will be a lot of great guys running there. I feel strong, my team is strong enough, and I think we can get it done at Mosport.
Moving off the track, Oli’s second birthday is today. We’re not doing too much on the day, but we’re going to have a party at our house on Saturday for some of Oli’s friends. It’s a party for him that he can enjoy. We’re doing a Pocoyo theme for his party because he watches a lot of Pocoyo. He absolutely loves that show. All the decorations and even the cake are going to be Pocoyo. Oliver is growing so fast. It’s hard to believe that two years ago he was in the hospital after he was born, now he’s running around and has a big personality. I’m glad to be experiencing being a father.
Since we last talked, Tony Stewart broke his leg in a sprint car race. As far as I’m concerned, you make your choices in life and things can happen. I don’t blame him—he loves what he does, and unfortunately he had an accident. I’ll use an example—if you have a motorcycle, you can have an accident, and motorcycle accidents are pretty bad. A lot of people are still riding motorcycles even though they can be dangerous. I used to have one actually, and once I started running professionally, I quit. It’s the same deal—if I want to ride a motorcycle, I’m going to have to pay the consequences if something happens. I don’t blame him, especially Tony, because he’s a super talented race car driver. Everything he does, he does it to be competitive and to win races. It’s unfortunate and I feel bad for him, but it’s just a choice in life. He’ll have to pay the price, but he’ll be back next year. You only live once, so if he really wants to do it, he needs to race.
Almost a month ago was my birthday, and we went to Miami and hung out mostly at the hotel and on the beach doing nothing. The night of my birthday, we went to a really nice restaurant and had a great time. My mom was here along with Patricia and Oliver, so it was really special. Quite a few of my friends put together some special messages for a video for me. It was so nice. I had about 43 minutes of video that Patricia put together for my birthday. I won’t lie to you, I think it was the best gift ever and I spent most of the video crying at the messages of true friendship and love. It was really special and I thank Patricia for doing it. She was sneaky working on it for two or three months. THere were a few times I saw her working on it, and she acted so weird, hiding it from me. She never does that. I’m not a good guesser when it comes to stuff like that, so I never thought about it. Once she gave me the video, I put it all together, but I never had any idea she was working on it. That was pretty cool.
I think that’s it for me this time around. I’m having the best time of my career right now, and it means everything that we’ve done so far has been worth it. It’s a lot of effort and a lot of time running and training myself to be better, and it’s paying off. I’m having a blast and I’m so thankful to God and my sponsors that I’m competitive. That’s what matters at the end of the day—I don’t want to just run laps—for the first time in my career, I can say I’m competitive every week, and that’s just awesome.
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