For the first time in my career, we ran back-to back road-course races. They were both very interesting. Being able to race in Montreal in the rain was a feather in my cap. You know, years from now, the stats will show that I was one of the 43 drivers who raced in the first-ever points race (in the Nationwide Series) run on rain tires. From that standpoint, it was really nice. But, it was a really dangerous race near the end. I could see for maybe 35 laps, then all of a sudden, I just couldn’t see anything. I had no windshield wipers; we weren’t prepared for it. Thank God they cancelled the race (when they did), and we were past halfway. I think we got a 30th-place finish.
I do have to say that I really like Montreal. It’s a really clean town; Kim and I were able to go out and eat at a really nice restaurant, sit out on a porch and eat French-Canadian style. The streets seemed really clean and everyone was just really nice. I think it’s a lot better than going to Mexico. In Mexico, everybody warned us, ‘you’re going to get sick,’ and ‘don’t walk far from the hotel because somebody will mug you.’ Mexico was just always scary, but Canada was a real happy place.
Then we went on to Watkins Glen, and we were in a pretty tough situation, starting at Montreal, that has kind of carried over even as we speak. My crew chief, Ken Campbell, came down with a virus that inflamed his spinal cord. He fell down trying to walk out of the back of the hauler. So we’ve been without a crew chief since Montreal. I was really concerned about it when we went to Watkins Glen. We all switched roles and I had to play the crew chief. It worked out real well – Watkins Glen was probably our best race of the year.
We were running 12th with about three laps to go. My team wanted me to pit, and I, like a rebellious little kid, said ‘I’m not pitting!’ They said, “Well, just to let you know, you should be out of gas.” So, I thought, OK, I have two choices. I can pit and end up 26th, or I can stay out and try to get a better finish. Then I thought, well I really don’t have anything to lose. I can’t really lose any points, I’m locked into 16th or 17th in driver points here, so I kept he car in fourth gear and I gave up nine or 10 spots. I was running the car at half throttle. I got about a half-mile from the checkered flag and I ran out of gas and coasted across the start-finish line and finished 21st. I was happy that the ending was good because they would have been mad at me if we’d have run out of gas on the racetrack and they had to have a tow truck come pick me up! The part I was most happy about is we really ran strong. We weren’t as fast as some of the guys in the top 10, but we were able to hang right there running 11th, 12th the whole time. Watkins Glen was a breath of fresh air and that made me happy.
I came off of Watkins Glen on a high, thinking we’re going to Michigan; we should be competitive. Michigan ranked right up there with Milwaukee this year – I don’t think I’ve ever run that bad in my life. I thought we were going to be really good. We never had enough speed, and I was surprised once the race got going at how bad the car handled. I was really happy with the car in practice the day before. We were so much worse – the car wouldn’t drive at all; the balance was way off. It was loose; it pushed. We just simply couldn’t fix it. The only thing I have to say about Michigan is it’s a race I’ve forgotten already! I didn’t bring back any good memories.
Speed TV put together a highlight reel showing NASCAR drivers learning to do a big burnout in an NHRA car. I’m lucky because my sponsor is JEGS. JEGS High Performance sponsors my TV shirt and my dirt car. I have to tell you, it was an incredible experience. It was me and Clint Bowyer, and we were blown away by how violent a Pro Stock drag racing car was. You watch the Pro Stocks on TV, and you think, well, they go 200 mph in 1,500 feet. We got in there and there is so much to do!
You’re doing burnouts and holding the brakes down; in my whole racing career I was never taught to push the clutch in and hold the throttle wide open. It was so hard for me to do. I have to tell you, the four or five hours I spent over at the new drag strip in Concord next to Lowe’s Motor Speedway was an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but stepping right into a Pro Stock at my age and seeing something I missed out on – I saw another style of racing that is definitely an art form. The G-forces are incredible. After I did three burnouts, I launched it in first gear just a little bit and I didn’t do a very good job of launching it. I held the throttle wide open for about a second, but I needed to hold it wide open for two or three seconds. I only pulled a little bit over one G, and I should have pulled three Gs. All I can say is it was a hell of an experience. I was driving the best Pro Stock in the United States. Four-time world champion Jeg Coughlin and his family own JEGS and he was the 2007 NHRA Pro Stock Champion. Clint was in the No. 2 car of his teammate Dave Connolly. We were being taught by the best in the world right now.
I want to congratulate my brother Rusty and everybody at Iowa Speedway. I met a lot of people while I was running my dirt car throughout the Midwest this year who were really working hard to get that Nationwide race in Iowa. A lot of people though, Kansas city’s right there; Chicago is right there, but there are a lot of little towns throughout Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, North and South Dakota that wanted this. I want to congratulate my brother and the whole staff at Iowa, it’s just really exciting. It’s a beautiful racetrack and I’m looking forward to racing there in the Nationwide Series.
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