Our team put a lot of effort into a new short track car. We went to Phoenix with it, and I really thought we were going to have a good run. We had an unexpected motor change before the race, and when they dropped the green flag, we made one lap and a darn coil wire fell out, of all things. We came in and put the coil wire back in, and then went back out. The car was fast. But it’s kind of hard to go out when you’re nine laps down and you don’t want to get yourself in any trouble.
After that, we went to Talladega. We had a good run there and drove the car accordingly. My car owner thought there would be a big wreck, but it was a smooth race, uncharacteristic for Talladega. Everybody wanted to finish. We’re so used to going to Talladega and everybody wanting to wreck so we approached the race in wreck mode. My car owner can’t afford me to be wrecking cars. If we wreck too many cars, it puts us out of business. Although I love to race and put myself up there, we had to go ahead and race on defense. Then with about 27 laps to go, we put the hammer down. I got up to about eighth, but I just wasn’t strong enough to stay up there. So we ended up 17th. We came out of there unscathed.
The next week was a little disappointing. We took that Phoenix car to Richmond, and that thing was freaking awesome! The car was what I thought it was – it was fast. We sat inside the top 15 all night, on the lead lap, which is really good for our team. I feel like our team still overachieves. We just don’t have everything that Joe Gibbs Racing or Richard Childress Racing or Penske or Roush have. So every week that we compete for a top 15 is a really good week for us. We want to win, but we’re realistic.
So, we were sitting there running 11th at Richmond when a caution comes out. The whole night I had been complaining that I didn’t have any brakes. I’d had to pump the brakes a lot all night. It turns out that as the race ran, the fluid was leaking out of the left-front caliper. On a restart with about eight laps to go, I went to push on the brakes going into the corner, and the rear brakes locked up. I spun out and hit the wall. That was really devastating to me because I love to take care of my racecar and I hate wrecking it.
Years ago Dick Trickle, who has won about 600 races, told me that to finish first, first you must finish. So I don’t like to wreck out. So that was pretty devastating to me, with about seven laps to go, to wreck out when we could have easily finished 11th.
So we recovered fine the next week and went to the Lady in Black, the Track Too Tough to Tame, Darlington. I love Darlington. I wish we’d race there two times a year. I really like the fact that Darlington is about two hours from my house. I always grab a sweet tea and a bag of sunflower seeds and make the drive down there. My girls got to grow up watching their dad race there.
We had a good run, finished 18th. We ran a car we hadn’t run in over a year. We were just trying to save our other car for Charlotte, so we broke out a car that we hadn’t run in a while. We pushed all night long, couldn’t get it to turn the way I wanted it to. But we got better as the night went on, made some big adjustments. We pushed in practice too, so we got some good notes down for that car. Next time we go out that car will be a little better.
So all in all, it’s not been bad – it’s not been great, but we’ve been holding steady, 14th in the points, 18th in car owner points. We’re a lot better than we were last year. I’m proud of my team. We always try to do better than the week before. We’re better right now than we were at Daytona.