It’s been two months since my last diary, and I have to say, I am really excited about the way my Harris Motorsports team has been performing over the last couple of months. Jim Harris put together such a great team, and I have to give a bunch of credit to my crew chief Jason Miller and everybody who works on the No. 24 Zachry Toyota Tundra for all of their hard work. The preparation that they do at the race shop before we even go to the track has helped out tremendously. We’ve also had a lot of help from Toyota’s engineers that has been instrumental. In the last five races, we’ve had four top-10 finishes and a few of those should have been top fives, if not victories.
At Kentucky, our biggest problem was that we got into the back of a truck that almost stopped right in front of me, and when I hit him, it did some damage to the front bumper. We didn’t have a great truck, but we overcame a lot of stuff during that race and showed how good we can be when we keep digging. We were running outside of the top 20 for a lot of the race, but to come back at the end of the race like we did was really a testament to my great team. We’ve been consistent, but we know we have to step it up if we want to win. We need fast Toyota Tundras, we need them to handle good, and we just need the opportunity to close in on the competition.
It was brought to my attention recently that while our finishing results have been impressive, our qualifying results have not. The truth is, it’s not THAT important to me. We really don’t focus much on qualifying at all. To race good, we need to build bodies with drag, and bodies that don’t necessarily qualify great but run very well during the race. If I have to give up a lot of spots in qualifying in order to have a better race truck, then I’m all for it. The only real problem with the lower starting spots is trying to dodge the other trucks that are in front of you. Obviously, the more trucks in front of you, the greater the chance that you might get caught up in an incident. But as far as the race itself, when our trucks are good it doesn’t really matter where we start, because we can charge to the front.
One of the things that makes it a little tricky during the race is the pit rules that NASCAR implemented at the beginning of the season. They changed the pit rules for the Camping World Truck Series, only allowing us to either change tires or fill up on gas during a pit stop, but not both. I think with a soft economy like we have, it does what it is designed to do, which is to help the teams save some money. It means that owners have to fly less crewmen to the track, which can save each team thousands of dollars. Even though in the big picture it might not be a lot of money, we are already having enough trouble bringing sponsors in and keeping what we have, so to be able to save any money these days is critical. While I think NASCAR does a good job looking out for the owners and the teams – and I do think the pit rules help out the teams – I personally don’t really like it. Next year, I think you might see the pit stops return to normal, and I also think that you are going to see the double-file restart in the Truck Series, as you see in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series.
This year, I’ve had a chance to do some awesome things, including two weeks ago at Nashville. I spent the day with artist Sam Bass and we did a bunch of TV and radio interviews and we also got to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame with the three finalist for CMT’s “Can you Duet.” I also got to visit with a buddy of mine, Scott Borchetta, who owns Big Machine Records. His record label, which has artists like Taylor Swift and Trisha Yearwood on their roster, was going to sign the winner of the show, so it was cool to actually be able to get to talk to him. I’m a big country music fan, so it was an honor to be asked to participate. We had a blast, but the only bad thing is that we were so busy hitting every radio and TV station, that we didn’t get a chance to actually tour the Hall of Fame. But overall, the whole experience was just cool.
But the coolest part of my job is being able to race my No. 24 Zachry Toyota Tundra on the NASCAR circuit – especially at a track like Bristol!! I’m excited about running at Bristol next week because I think we are capable of winning. We always run well there and the racing is usually exciting, the way the racetrack is now, because you don’t have to do bump and run. Everyone is on top of each other and it’s a fight to the end. We’re just going to have to have a great handling truck, everyone is going to have to do their job, we need great pit stops and some luck, and we could walk away with a victory. We are due for a win and when I talked to my crew chief the other day, he said he couldn’t wait to get to Bristol because he feels like we can win. I think we definitely have a truck and the team that could do it!