Road America was a beautiful, beautiful racetrack. It was very well groomed, all the grass was cut and there was standing room only. I couldn’t believe how many people were all around that four-mile road course! I had never raced a 4-mile road course, and it was funny, because it took forever to get around. I think it was over two minutes.
We went up there on a wing and a prayer. We had a good little sponsor in Anderson’s Maple Syrup, but the race didn’t pay hardly any money, so my car owner was kind of in a conservative mode. We did not get on the track much for practice on purpose and were kind of crossing our fingers that everything was going to be OK. When the track opened up, we probably ran oh, six laps.
Then, when the race started and they dropped the green flag, I don’t think we ran five laps in a row under green in the entire race. Maybe we did, but it was just wreck after wreck. It was a very exciting race. We’ll be better next time we go back. I ended up finishing 21st. We survived. We didn’t have the good brakes on the car – we were saving those for the next week at Loudon – but I’m looking forward to going back there. It’s beautiful country and a fun road course!
Loudon was a lot of fun. We had our Fan Club outing, and it was totally successful. It was bigger this year than it was last year. I want to thank my fans from up in the great Northeast. Everybody knows that I won a big race up there in 1991, the Bud 300. Ever since then, my fanbase there has been supportive of me and they keep growing! But I was really disappointed. We were running 21st of all things. We had 21st locked up, and there were 15 laps to go, and darn it, we broke the splines out of the ratchet – a very rare thing.
We get good gears. We lease our gears from Jericho, and I’ll be damned – 15 laps to go, where the axle goes in, it broke he splines out of the ratchet in the rear end, so that was really disappointing. Instead of finishing 20th or 21st, we ended up 32nd. Although it was a good racetrack for me and a fun weekend, 15 laps shy of the finish was disappointing.
Daytona was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed going down there with the new car. NASCAR has asked us to not refer to it as the Car of Tomorrow – it’s called the new car. Once again, my team was a little behind, and we were not able to show up on practice day. On Tuesday, we had inspection and we didn’t even show up for that. We got there on Wednesday morning, and it took us nine hours, all day Wednesday to get through inspection. All the other teams were out on the racetrack already on Wednesday.
So we go to the racetrack Thursday, and between rain delays and a big wreck in practice, we literally got two laps of practice, and I thought, “Oh my God, we are in trouble!” So my chassis man, Chris Dietrich, threw some coil binding type front springs on it, and the car actually ran really good for only two laps of practice. I think we finished 31st. It was kind of funny, after two laps of practice, there at the end of the race I was racing my brother Mike, Michael McDowell – some really good cars – and we outran them on the last lap. We actually came out of the pits 36th on our last stop and passed four or five cars on the last lap.
It was a week to remember and also a week to forget. It was so hot, it was brutal. We didn’t know anything about what the car was going to do. And then, I got 10 laps into the race and I radioed my team and told them, “Hey, this car feels pretty good!”
Then all of a sudden, I about spun out two times. Come to find out the next day, Chris Dietrich calls me and tells me, “You’re not going to believe this.” The right-front spring plate broke and the spring was laying in the bucket. I ended up finishing the whole race like that. We were extremely lucky. I should have wrecked and destroyed the car, but the spring laid in the right-front bucket and wow, were we lucky. Some day I’ll be able to say I was there when the new car came out!
This is my favorite time of year because this is the Boys of Summer! We all complain about how rough the winter is, how it’s cold and nasty, and this is it! This is what I live for. The 90-degree temperatures don’t bother me. This is my favorite time because it reminds me of when I was a kid. It’s the ultimate race time. You can go race four or five times of week – I could if I wanted to. We have such a great time. It’s just the ultimate race time. I still love racing as much as I ever did. I’m not tired of racing one ounce. I love it more now than I ever did, and that’s why I drive my dirt cars. I get bummed out when I see rain. Sometimes it’s good to have rain so we can kind of reset and let the boys relax, but everybody still wakes up early!