In the three races since my last diary, we’ve had very mixed results on the track. Our Wednesday night race at Bristol was awesome. My Zachry Toyota Tundra performed really well and my crew chief Jason Miller and all of the guys on my HT Motorsports team did a great job. Our truck wasn’t very good in practice, but everyone worked real hard and Jason came up with some magic. We thought we were going to be better than our seventh-place finish, but it was still a great race for our team.
Unfortunately, the two races since haven’t gone quite as we wanted and they’ve been pretty disappointing for us. We struggled with our Toyota at both Chicago and Iowa, but we are working hard to get back to where we were. The last two racetracks were new to the Camping World Truck Series and I wish I could say that was the reason we struggled. However, they were new tracks for everyone in the series, so we really can’t use that as an excuse. About a month and a half ago, we lost our chief engineer and we haven’t filled that position with a full-time engineer yet, so that’s kind of hurting us. I feel that we are off a little on the technical side of things and it’s affecting our truck and presents some challenges to our team. We are not down and out, but with the technical side hurting a little bit, it’s been a little harder on everyone – especially for Jason Miller.
I have a great crew chief, a strong team, and even though we feel like there is a big challenge ahead of us, we have so much passion and heart that I don’t worry that this little slump will last long. Everyone on the No. 24 team really believes there are shining days ahead of us and our spirits and morale are definitely up. We always look at the bright side of things, and look forward to putting the last few races behind us.
Although we didn’t have the greatest race experience, the Iowa Speedway is an awesome facility. It felt a little bit like Kansas Speedway, but it’s a short track with a mile and half feel because you carry so much speed in the corners. It is really just an awesome facility and the people there were great and really laid out the red carpet for us. The fans got to see a great race, I just wish we could have been in the mix. I definitely give the track a five-star rating, and the people of Iowa should be proud of what they have.
So now we end our Midwest portion of the season by heading to Gateway Raceway in St. Louis. Even though I’ve won at Gateway, it doesn’t give me any more confidence then any other track, because I really believe that my HT Motorsports team has a chance at each and every racetrack we head to. But I enjoy racing in St. Louis and cannot wait to get my Zachry Toyota Tundra back out there and try to erase these last couple of weeks from our minds.
While our on-track performance hasn’t been as great as I would like, I’m still having a lot of fun doing appearances for my sponsor, Zachry. I’ve said it several times before, but they really are a great company and it’s really cool being able to go to their different job sites and talk to their employees. It is interesting just how much their employees have in common with me as a racecar driver. Much like me in my job, one wrong move could be the difference between life and death. On the job site they have crane operators, riggers, pipe fitters, welders, painters, engineers, and it’s not much different then the crew members on a race team. It’s a big honor to be able to talk to them about safety and about team work – all the things are so vital to my success, that are also very important to theirs. It’s just a great honor for me that Zachry doesn’t just want me to do stuff for them at the racetrack, but that they want to utilize me off the track and at their work sites. I cannot tell you how much it means to me.
While things aren’t going perfect in my racing life, my life as a father is absolutely wonderful. I never thought it would be so cool and the pride and joy I feel when I think of him is incredible. I can’t get enough of hugging on him and kissing on him, and when he gets old enough to talk he’s going to say, “Daddy stop kissing on me.” But until then, I just can’t get enough. I throw him around and he laughs out loud and just loves it. It’s such a cool thing. When I’ve been disappointed and frustrated with our race finishes, or wrecks we’ve been having the last couple of weeks, as soon as I get home, it all goes away. Before, I would hold onto that frustration until I got into the truck the following week, but now, once I get home and hug my son, it puts that all into perspective.
A lot of people say that when you have kids it can slow you down and you don’t race as hard, but it’s been completely different for me. Before my son was born, I didn’t think it was possible for the competitive fire in me to burn any more than it did. But after my son was born, it’s almost like someone flipped a switch in me. The desire to win and be competitive is even stronger than before because of him, and when we aren’t competitive, it really irritates me just that much more. I can’t wait to be able to start bringing him to races. Right now, he’s only about six months old so it’s a little tough to bring him around all the time, but as he gets older, I cannot wait for him and my wife to be there every weekend. I want him to smell the smells, hear the sounds and hopefully get the same passion for racing that I have. Growing up, my dad always took me to races and to his race shop, and I want my son to have the same experience. But for right now, I just look forward to being to go home after each race to see my son and wife.