The last several weeks have been real exciting for myself and the whole HT Motorsports team. On a personal note, I got a very, very special gift from a big group of my fans when we raced back home at the Texas Motor Speedway. They honored me by purchasing a brick for the new NASCAR Hall of Fame and presented me with a replica. It was very special moment for me and it’s hard to put it into words. It is truly a dream for me to do what I do, and to have fans that pull for me as hard as mine do and who will do that kind of stuff for you is really cool. It was just a really neat thing that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Our No. 24 Zachry Toyota Tundra has been pretty awesome and we finally have some good finishes to show for it. I knew from the day that I got to HT Motorsports and started working with my crew chief, Jason Miller, my engineer, Matt Falkner, and the rest of the team, that it was going to be a good match. They are all so dedicated to the team and do a great job. We’ve come a long way in the last few months and week in and week out we are just getting stronger. It’s not that we haven’t run well this year, because we have. But it just seems that inevitably something would happen that would take us out of contention for the strong finish we were headed for.
At Lowes back in May, we had an awesome truck and finished seventh, but I really felt like we had a top five truck. We were really strong at Dover and finished third, but we really should have won that race, and might have if we didn’t have that flat. Pitting to fix it hurt us. At Texas Motor Speedway, my home track, we had one of the fastest trucks, but we had to start the race dead last because of an engine change. We worked our way up into the top 10 really quickly, but I raced so hard I wore out the tires and had to pit under green. We took four tires but made no adjustments because my Zachry Toyota Tundra was really good. We came in the next time for fuel and unfortunately that might have been what hurt us. There were a bunch of trucks who pitted and just took fuel, so when the caution came out, it put me lap down. Lucky for us, the caution came out again and I got the “lucky dog,” so I was back on the lead lap. The bad thing about it, though, was that I had to start way in the back, instead of up where I really should have been, so instead of starting ninth, I was actually the 24th or 25th truck in line. But again, my Tundra was so good that I was able to pass all the lap down trucks and get back up with the leaders. I caught the eighth- and seventh-place trucks, but by that time first through sixth had such a big advantage, I had to be happy with seventh. With the way everything played out, we were really happy with a seventh, but we know we had a stronger truck than that.
We may have had a better finish than that, if we had the new double-file restarts in the Camping World Truck Series, like they do in the Cup Series. I wouldn’t have had to worry about the lap-down trucks as much and may have been able to challenge those top-five guys for the win. Hopefully that is something our series will be doing really soon, because I think it would be great for the fans. It definitely seems to make it more exciting for fans, and that’s really what this sport is all about. We need our fans, particularly in this day and age with the economy as it is. We need to give them another reason to get excited about our sport and come out to the racetrack. I think it is a great call on NASCAR’s part and I’m excited about it happening. I think if we don’t see it this weekend in Milwaukee, it will come very soon. I’m not sure I understand how it works 100%, but I believe that it will make the Camping World Truck Series even tougher than it is.
We qualified 20th at Michigan last weekend, but it only took about the first 20 laps or so before I was able to get into the top 10, up to sixth place. The truck was flawless so we made no adjustments, but unfortunately we were hit by another truck on the track, went for a bit of spin, and got hit by a couple more trucks by the time it was said and done. But our truck was so strong, that even with the damage we had and the positions we lost, we were still able to get back out there and finished 11th. It was definitely a top five truck, but that’s just part of racing, so we were satisfied with our finish, knowing that we are just getting stronger. It’s an incredible feeling and hard to describe, because the last few years have been pretty challenging. I am just so honored to be a part of such a committed team and excited about the rest of the season.
While we’ve been running really strong, qualifying still seems to be our toughest challenge. We haven’t qualified very well because we build so much downforce into the bodies of the trucks and are getting a lot of drag. But I’ll give up qualifying any day to have a strong truck at the green flag. It’s been a few years since I’ve had trucks this strong, and if we just keep doing what we’re doing, the wins will come soon. I’m just having fun out there!
Not only are these great runs a morale booster for my HT Motorsports team, but it’s also allowed us a little more TV time for my sponsor, Zachry. While racing may be all about the fans, we could not do what we do with the great sponsors that support NASCAR. In these times, when sponsors are pulling back, when car manufacturers are filing bankruptcy, and GM is pulling its support from the Camping World [Truck] and Nationwide series teams, I am so fortunate to have such a great sponsor like Zachry. You can’t forget that it is a performance-driven business, and when you run well, it means more times to highlight your sponsor. I am fortunate and blessed to be with HT Motorsports and to be able to take care of our sponsor, not only with the added TV coverage, but also off the track, with the speaking engagements, construction site visits, etc.
This week, we are heading to the Milwaukee Mile and I’m really looking forward to it. Knowing every week that I have my team behind me, I expect to unload and be a threat to win the race. We really do expect to be one of the trucks to beat and as always, we will do everything we can to get into victory lane.
After the race at Milwaukee, I will be returning back home to Texas on Saturday, just in time to have my first Father’s Day with David Jr. Father’s Day has always been important to me because I have a very special father, but now that I’m a father myself, it’s a pretty cool deal. I live, eat and sleep racing, but to have a son now, it just puts it into perspective and is better than anything on the racetrack. Being with my family is going to be really cool, but it would be even more special if I could bring my son a trophy from Milwaukee!