Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday November 7, 2013
Since we last talked, we raced at Talladega, Martinsville and Texas. I think we had a pretty good race in Talladega and played smart until the end. We did everything right. Once we got to around 30 laps to go, I was 14th or 15th, and my spotter said ‘your teammate is on the bottom.’ I pulled to the bottom to try to grab Jeb (Burton), but we had three packs of two-truck drafts in front of us. I had my spotter to have him drag his foot on the brake so I could catch him. We got to the last lap coming out of turn four and we were moving forward quick. When we got to the tri-oval, my grille hooked on his back bumper and I turned him into the wall and caused the big crash.
It was unfortunate because I think we were running seventh and eighth and we were getting ready to pass to 51 (Kyle Busch) and the 60 (Dakoda Armstrong). I think we probably had a shot to win, but I’m not sure because the other wreck happened right in front of us. Worst case scenario, we probably would have both finished in the top 5. Those things happen when you have one lap to go, and you’re doing all you can to win the race.
Martinsville was just a tough weekend. We had a brand new truck. In practice, we were seventh on average in the second practice. Averages tell a lot about where your truck is at. You can be the fastest for one lap but run 20th on average. When we got to qualifying, the truck drove pretty well, but we were two-tenths off and qualified 20th. At Martinsville, that’s pretty bad because you can’t make any mistakes or if your truck doesn’t handle as well at the beginning of the race, you’re in trouble. We started the race moving forward and got to the top 15, and I lost rear bite in two laps. From that point on, we dropped back and lost a lap. We fought all day long to get a lap back, but when we finally did there weren’t that many laps to go. It was a hard day.
If you’re fighting for a championship you can’t have those bad days. You need to be consistent, even on a bad day. Unfortunately we had the big crash at Talladega and it was a lot of points that we lost. We had the 21st-place finish at Martinsville and that was tough. It was certainly a tough couple of weeks.
Moving forward to Texas, I had high expectations. I really needed to have a great race because we’ve been performing like a championship caliber team all season long. We’ve been great in Texas a lot this year. We ran chassis 600 that had a second-place run in Pocono, a third place in Las Vegas. We led the first practice, and I drove in the pack to find out how the truck handled in traffic. It was great. We tried a few things, but by the end of the day for practice, we put it back to where we unloaded. We started fourth, and I didn’t know for sure if we’d have a shot at the pole.
The track was quite a bit different between the practice sessions Thursday and qualifying on Friday. The sun in turns three and four played a huge role in the difference. On my warmup lap, I felt a little free in those turns, and in my first lap, I felt like I was a one to two loose, three or four loose on my second lap. The sun was really hot there and we just didn’t have any grip. We changed everything for the night because the temperatures dropped.
“We were really good at the end; I thought we were going to finish a little bit better than eighth. We couldn’t have asked for much more under the circumstances. The guys were great on pit road all night. They did a good job repairing the damage we had early on and they worked hard to give me a good truck. I’m so happy we were able to give Anderson’s Maple Syrup a top 10 in their first race with us; I can’t thank them enough for coming on board.
I don’t use a whole lot of syrup, but I did try Anderson’s and I really like it. Oliver eats a lot of pancakes, though. The main thing about it is that the first thing people think is that because I’m diabetic, I can’t have it. I like to say that I can have whatever I want. I’d like to change that myth that people believe about diabetes. It’s about eating things in moderation.
Overall, I’d give this season a solid B+. I feel like we’ve run well with poles, second place, top 5s and have been in contention to win. We’ve even led a lot of laps. If it weren’t for the bad finishes we’ve had, we should be in the fight for the championship.
The 2014 schedule is out, and I’m certainly more excited about the road course coming back than I am Eldora. Eldora was a great race for all of the fans. I put myself in their position and think of the fans watching from home and I’m sure it was pretty cool to watch. With that being said, I’m really excited about the road course again. It was a solid race we had a shot to win at and we were pretty close. Moving forward to those tracks again, it will be easier to focus on details because I know what to expect. I have all of my notes from the weekend about what I felt and changes. It makes it easier to come to a track and read them all. We just had the big unknown with the new tracks. You’re able to focus a lot on the smaller details that will make a big difference.
All of the early breaks can be good if you’ve had a good race at Daytona because you want to get to Martinsville and the next races. If you didn’t, it’s hard because you want to get to Martinsville and change that. Every time you have a big break, it’s not good. Even if you win the race, you want to go again and win the next one. The schedule has a big hole at the beginning with Daytona and five weeks off. I hope we have 24 or 25 races soon like we had in 2011.
Looking ahead, we’ve got Phoenix this weekend. Even before Talladega, I was looking forward to the final five races. If it weren’t for the wreck at Talladega and we should’ve been good at Martinsville. We ran third there earlier this year. Unfortunately we killed that truck in Iowa. At Phoenix we were having a really good day until we got caught up, and at Homestead last year we finished fifth. If everything goes right, we’ll be taking the same truck to Homestead. For Phoenix, we have a brand new truck, number 604. I like Phoenix and Homestead, so it should be good.
This Cup championship battle is really exciting right now. I still think Jimmie is going to pull it off, but I look at Matt Kenseth a lot like Brad Keselowski last year. A lot of race tracks were Brad was 11th place average, he went to and finished in the top 3. Matt is doing the same thing. I think it will be exciting and I don’t think we’ll have the winner until Homestead unless there’s an engine failure or something. I’d rather see it happen on the race track.
Moving off track a little big, November is American Diabetes Month. I’m always trying to get the message out and try to find a cure. This time, we did the Step Out Walk in Charlotte last weekend. We are going to run a special logo on the Phoenix truck. Other than that, it’s just the same thing that I’ve been doing all year. A couple weeks ago, we had an interview in Charlotte on the morning news. Oliver was there too. He was talking to himself in the monitor off camera. There were cameras focused on us and every time he saw himself, he was pointing himself out.
Ryan Reed, who is also a diabetic, just recently signed with Roush Fenway Racing in the Nationwide Series. We talked a bit in Las Vegas last year when he ran the truck race. We used to work out in the same gym and with the same trainer. He’s a great guy and I’m happy for him and the opportunity, and to have an insulin sponsor is huge. We don’t really talk a lot about managing diabetes now, but we did back then.
When the season ends, the first thing I want to do is to sign a contract for next year. Nothing new on it yet. I’m working hard for it. We have a lot of things going on, but nothing is done yet. I hope we can do it before that, though. Once we get to December, things will start slowing down, and we’re planning to go to Brazil to see family like we normally do. We’ll be there for Christmas and New Year’s before coming back in January.
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