A couple of weeks ago we made some changes on our International MaxxForce Diesel team, including a new truck chief, Troy “TK” Kelly. We had a meeting at the shop about what we could do to work a little better as a team and man, what a difference. We unloaded with a great Ford F150 and for the first time, my truck and Rick Crawford‘s No. 14 Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International truck were identical and it really worked out good. Our No. 10 International MaxxForce Diesel Ford F150 was pretty competitive the whole race and I actually thought we might have a shot at winning. In the end, it was a great call for my crew chief Dennis Connor to go with only right-side tires. The chassis adjustment at the end helped me run the fastest laps of the weekend in the last 20 laps of the race. It was just good to be competitive and running back into the top five where we should be. I know I finished fourth, but it felt like a win for us. I think we’ve got a lot of momentum going now at Circle Bar Racing and we’re pretty excited about it. NASCAR racing is all about the chemistry and getting the right people. With our new truck chief Troy, it seems to be working in the shop and reflecting on the racetrack.
Last week was the first race for NASCAR on the new Bristol surface. I have to say, it was really fun. We had our Ford F150 running really good in practice, but we got loose when we qualified. I went out second and I wish I could have went out later, after I figured out you had to move up a little bit to go faster. In the race we had a great truck and we were coming forward before I got bumped and lost six or seven spots. I used my truck up trying to get some of those spots back, and by the time the caution came out we had already earned about four or five positions. We pitted for tires and again I started making my way back up to the front, but a right-front flat pretty much killed us. We got lucky because the caution came out and I was really happy get back up to 17th.
For the Craftsman Truck Series, we could race on the bottom, the center, up high – it was incredible how awesome the racetrack was. I didn’t know you would be able to run the center or the top lane so quickly and I thought that the bottom was still going to be the preferred groove, and over time you’d be able to move up. But I was shocked that it was that quick. I never thought they’d make the racing any better at Bristol, but they did. They’ve done a great job and I love the race track.
Along with my racing, the city of Dallas, Texas recently asked me to be a part of their new “SafeLight, Dallas Stops on Red” program. I was honored to be contacted by the city council and asked if I was interested in being their spokesperson. Now I’m appearing in television commercials and radio ads to bring awareness to the program.
Running red lights is not only dangerous for the person running the light, but also for the person or persons they could run into. Several intersections in the city of Dallas now have cameras, so if you run a red light you could get a citation in the mail. This program is meant to bring awareness of the cameras in hopes of lowering the number of red-light runners, meaning less accidents and less injuries. Someone may be running late or just be in a big hurry, but it’s just not worth it and I hope what we are doing will make a big difference.
This weekend we are going to Gateway International Raceway outside of St. Louis. It might be the site of one of my most memorable wins two years ago, but it doesn’t really make a difference in the way I race there now. I’ve won at four of the upcoming tracks (Gateway, Las Vegas, Martinsville and Phoenix) but it doesn’t mean I’m more confident because of that. The truth is I had the same amount of confidence going into Bristol as I will going to Gateway this week, and as I have going to every track this season. I’m a competitor and I go to win, and I know my International MaxxForce Diesel team is capable of winning every single week. I try not to focus on the past, so on that day, I just want to win that race – regardless of how well we have or haven’t performed there in the past.
I look forward to going to every race and I’m excited for the challenge, but I am really looking forward to going to St. Louis because I feel we’re going to be real competitive. You can’t get any more determined than I am. I’m driven to win and to get our race team back where it needs to be. I’m past hungry, I’m starving. I WANT to win!!