I was pretty excited at the beginning of the week at Daytona. We started out pretty good in practice. We didn’t have a lot of speed on the speed chart, but the truck was handling really well. We figured if it would handle good on old tires, we’d be good for the race. We also figured when we got around the other trucks, we’d be a lot faster because of the draft. We mostly focused on getting the balance of the truck a lot better. I think we did that.
We qualified OK and the truck was really good in the race. It drove right up to the front. I passed Kyle Busch for the lead one time and then the caution came out, which wasn’t all bad because we were about to have to do green-flag pit stops in the next few laps. We drove back to the front again because we lost a bunch of track position pitting, but we were about to pass to be able to pass for the lead again.
I’m not sure what lap it was, but I was on the outside of Ron Hornaday when I felt a tap from behind from the No. 30 truck (Todd Bodine). It just sent us around and we got wrecked. We had a really good truck. I think we probably had an opportunity to finish in the top three, but we just got taken out. It was pretty disappointing.[The next weekend], I really struggled at California getting the line figured out. California is really wide and it’s kind of flat. Finding the line that was going to work the best was tough. I’d get the line and then the next lap, I couldn’t find it again. There’s not really much you can make your marks out of. It’s just a whole lot of racetrack and a whole lot of pavement. There’s a lot of different ways to get around it, but finding the one that works the best is hard to do. I had trouble trying to get the line figured out for most of practice.
We were struggling with getting the balance of the truck better at the same time. The main thing we struggled with was the truck being too tight. It was just pushing through the whole corner. We got it better toward the end of practice. It still wasn’t where it needed to be, but we qualified pretty decent.
We didn’t finish quite as well as we wanted to, obviously. We wanted to be in the top 10 or top five, but we rode around between 15th and 20th all day and got a 13th-place finish out of it. The best we were all day was eighth. We never did go a lap down, so that was good. We only pitted once for tires, so at the end of the race, we had about 70 laps on our tires and we didn’t get what we wanted out of it – but it was OK.
We moved on to Atlanta, and we took the same truck there. We had the same problem, too, of not having enough grip in the front of the truck. After a couple of laps, it would start pushing just like it did in California. We kind of fought the exact same issue so it ended up kind of being the same deal, we rode around 15th to 20th all day. We actually fell off the lead lap twice at Atlanta and got our lap back twice.
We finished as the last truck on the lead lap because the last time we got the Lucky Dog, it was with about 12 laps to go. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to get back in the hunt with the lead trucks because they make you restart at the tail end of the longest line, which inside of 20 laps to go, that’s a lot of trucks to pass so that makes it a lot tougher to try to gain any positions. We got a 14th-place finish, so I guess that was pretty decent for the kind of weekend we’d been having. We qualified 13th, finished 14th, and we were 15th in practice so we stayed in that same range all weekend.
We never really got any better than where we started, but we’ve been working pretty hard at the shop trying to make everything better. Hopefully, the next mile and a half we go to, which is Kansas, we’ll be taking a new truck and hopefully we’ll be able to run a lot better and get the balance of the truck a lot better. All together, I think we’ve had a pretty decent first three races.
I also ran in the ARCA race at Daytona. I was actually kind of disappointed after qualifying. We qualified seventh, but I honestly thought we were better than that. That was the same car I sat on the pole at Talladega with so I kind of expected to be in the top three or so. We qualified seventh, a couple tenths off the pole. After qualifying tech, they didn’t like the way our suspension was put together, so they made us change some things and we got sent to the back. We had to start 43rd out of 43 cars.
That made it fun for me just because I got to pass all those cars instead of just riding around in the same position all day long. That made it pretty exciting in the beginning. I had a lot of fun getting through the pack. We made it from 43rd to 11th in the first 10 or 11 laps.
We knew going in that we had our pit strategy figured out. Everybody felt they could make it on just one stop, so we pitted early and took on tires and fuel on the first or second caution. We got fuel and right-side tires early, so when everyone else pitted, all we had to do was top off on fuel and we were good to go until the end on tires.
The guys told me before the race even started just to get all I could get and not to even worry about working my way all the way to the lead – they’d get the rest of it for me. So I got us in the top six or seven, and they did the rest of the work on pit road with pit strategy. We were in the lead after the stops and led the rest of the race. That was pretty good strategy – it won us the race.
I haven’t really gotten to do anything cool off track yet. The first hospitality event I’ll get to do for International will be at Kansas. I would have liked to have done the clay shoot they did in Atlanta. I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t get to do that, but I didn’t really have advance notice so I didn’t get to go do that. I would have enjoyed that. It was for charity, and a bunch of drivers went to shoot at the clay pigeons with shotguns.
I’m back in Texas right now during our off time, spending time with my family. My mother and little sister came to Houston for a couple of days. I’m getting to spend a few days back home. I’ve been in North Carolina so much that I figured I’d come home for a few days while I had the chance.
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