I love summer because it’s the beginning of dirt racing season. Last week, we went to the seventh annual Prelude to the Dream at Eldora. I really, really look forward to it. It’s a highlight for me. I really had a lot of high hopes this year. I was back driving for Brian Shirley. We ended up qualifying horrible. My car was too tight, but we got it running really good. I was the captain of the team for St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I was going to start 15th. That gave me a good shot for a top 5 run and I felt like I had the car to do that. Well, on HBO they interviewed me and Jimmie Johnson and they asked if we would start in the back, and if we could start in the back and win it would be a $50,000 bonus to our charity.
So me and Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, we took them up on the challenge. We got running really good. I think I passed the most cars and got up to 16th. I passed Jimmie and Tony, and that was a feather in my cap. I left really happy with the driving job that I did. So I got to 16th and was closing on a bunch of cars, but it’s only a 30-lap race, so it was over that fast. What was exciting was that Team St. Louis Children’s Hospital won, so I was able to accept the win on our behalf. I was really grateful that the most money went to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
My dirt week didn’t go good. It didn’t go horrible, but it didn’t go good, either. I went up to Lima, Ohio for UNOH, and my deal was to drive their school car that was prepared by the students. I got in the car, ran three laps, and the motor blew up. The motors were built out-of-house. The students did not build the motors. Drag racer Terry McMillan gave up his car for me, and we were running really, really good and the left rear tire went flat. So that was the bottom line there.
All the drama for me started after that. We were on the way to Natural Bridge, Virginia to race my own dirt modified, and my hauler has 97,000 miles on it, and the motor blew up in it in Beckley, West Virginia. That hurt, because we were stranded on the side of the road. That totally caught us off guard. So, when the motor blew up, I did a lot of thinking. When you’re stranded on the side of the road, it’s scary, you know? So I got on the phone and I got the luck that I needed. We were two-and-a-half hours away from Natural Bridge, and I was able to call James Johnson at Tom Johnson Camping Center. They were awesome. They had a truck there for me in less than an hour. Tom Johnson Camping Center and James Johnson really helped me.
So we were late going to the race track, and then they shut down Interstate 64 for a bad accident with some fatalities. A 15-passenger van got in a bad wreck. We were grateful, because we looked at it like, yeah, our motor blew up, but we could have been in that accident. When we finally got to Natural Bridge, everything was going perfect. We won our heat, we won the dash and we were leading the feature and it started raining. Then, to add insult upon injury, we were loading up and getting ready to leave. It was a horrible downpour rain-I mean, it was a gusher. They decided they were going to dry the track and finish the race. So I was leading the A-Main about five laps in.
They started drying the track and I though the track was feeling pretty good, so they asked us to go out and feel it out. I went down in the corner, tried to get in the gas, and I spun out in the corner and hit the wall. I was totally embarrassed. But it didn’t hurt the car real bad, so I went in the garage, and I’m still the leader of the race, and they were getting the track ready. There were tow trucks, passenger cars, all out there drying the track. So we towed my car in, and all it really needed was a right front tire. We were getting ready to put the tire on and to add insult to injury, they dropped the green flag on the race while we were in there. I couldn’t believe it. So that was the end of my weekend. I’m glad it’s over. My sponsors are great people, UNOH and Federated Auto Parts. The competition just wasn’t smooth.
I’m really excited about Michigan just because of the fact that we learned an awful lot at Chicago. When I look at MIS, I look back at Cali because the tracks are similar. We finished 15th at California and we finished seventh at Chicago. We made some chassis changes that made me feel a lot better at the mile-and-a-half tracks, so I really, really am looking forward to it because I know I’m going to have a great car!
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