First and foremost, I would like to extend my condolences to the entire Poole family. I never had the opportunity to get to know David, but I am very familiar with his work and he was one of the best writers out there. The NASCAR community has lost a friend and he will truly be missed.
On a lighter note, it’s finally May and it’s getting warmer out so there is a lot to get excited about. I have to tell you though that April was definitely the tale of two months for me. It certainly didn’t start out well when we missed the show at Texas. I’m not sure what happened, but our car definitely wasn’t right. You only get one practice to dial the car in and we were just really off for some reason and we still aren’t sure what exactly went wrong. Qualifying is definitely my best attribute for sure so it’s difficult when you go to a racetrack and things aren’t right. It’s a huge challenge to get the setup right in such a short period of time. I stayed at the track though for the entire weekend, hung out with my friends and used it as an opportunity to learn more. It sucked being on the sidelines but it sure beats sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon.
Needless to say, I was a little down after Texas, but fortunately I had a pretty cool trip planned for the off-weekend that followed. My fiancé and I went to Sea World in Orlando, Fla. and had some cool opportunities to meet some penguins, swim with the dolphins and check out some Beluga whales. We had a great time and I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend my off-weekend that way.
My adventure at Sea World actually marked my second trip to Florida in about a month. I’m not really a big fan of the state; it is humid and gross. Soon I’ll be hanging out more around Charlotte, as the weather gets warmer. There are some nice lakes around here that I like to go to that are away from Lake Norman, which is too crowded for my liking. I really enjoy taking my boat out and doing a little wakeboarding or tubing. The warm weather can’t get here fast enough.
The month sure ended on a better note for me at Talladega, and boy what a wild race it was. We started out on the wrong foot when we had to come down pit road on the pace laps. You see, for qualifying on restrictor-plate tracks, we have to tie back the brakes from the calipers and when you are done, you are supposed to pump the brakes so they come back. Well, that didn’t happen and because it was an impound race, we couldn’t touch the car, meaning it had to be fixed right before the race and we suffered the consequences of starting the race a lap down.
In an odd way though, the penalty really saved us from being in the first Big One. There is no question in my mind that there was at least an 80% chance of us getting caught up in that mess had we not been in the back since the wreck happened right where we started. So we finally ended up getting some good luck this season, which in my mind, made up for Daytona where we always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during Speedweeks.
The early caution was actually a break for us because we got the free pass back on the lead lap. At that point, I was able to race our Red Bull Toyota to the front of the pack, but I tell you what, I did not like what I saw at that point. I felt that it was more dangerous up there with everyone fighting so hard to keep the lead. A little later in the race, we stayed out during a caution to lead a lap and then restarted at the back of the pack because we were off sequence. At that point, I decided to hang back there along with the No. 99 and No. 16 cars. It’s my style to be more conservative and take fewer chances.
One thing that fans should understand though is that we are not just along for the ride when we’re hanging out in the back. You have to stay up on the wheel just enough because if you lose the draft and a caution does not come out, you will be in danger of falling a lap down in a hurry.
Eventually, when the race reached the final stages, I was able to take our No. 82 Camry to the front and, as it turned out, I had a front-row seat for that crazy finish. I saw Carl Edwards and that car was very high; it was scary. It’s really not the type of thing you want to see. You know, I just started in this series, so I’m still trying to form my opinion on the yellow-line rule. From what I can tell though, we’ve always been crashing here and we always will as long as we continue to race in packs. I think there were just as many wrecks before the yellow-line rule as there are after it was implemented. In fact, I don’t think the rule was the cause of the crash between Edwards and Brad Keselowski anyway, it was just a racing deal.
This weekend we are at Richmond and my whole team is pumped after that fifth-place finish. I definitely look forward to carrying our momentum into Saturday night and I hope you’ll be watching!