We’ve definitely experienced some bad luck this year, but this past week at Michigan we had one of our bigger heartbreaks of the season. First, we got into Dave Blaney on pit road which caused a fair amount of damage to our Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. It was just a matter of us taking two tires and getting back out quickly to keep our track position. Unfortunately, when you’re that early in the race, you have 43 cars all hitting pit road at the same time. We just made a mistake getting off of pit road and should’ve checked up. We had just about recovered when late in the race we had a different set of unfortunate circumstances. I made contact with another competitor and cut down a tire. Unfortunately, that ended our chances of salvaging a decent finish out of a roller coaster day.
The week before Michigan, we had another great qualifying run; in fact, we sat on the pole for most of the session until getting knocked off the top spot. While I was watching each driver take his qualifying laps following us, I kept wondering if someone was going to hit their marks perfectly and beat us. Even though we put up a solid time, I knew I had left a little time on the track, specifically in the tunnel turn so I knew it wouldn’t be impossible to beat us and sure enough, a few guys did.
Even though I knew our Earnhardt-Childress Racing engine was strong enough to get the job done at a place like Pocono, I was a little surprised that my best shot at the pole so far this year came at that venue. It’s not generally been one of our better racetracks, but we’ve gone to a lot of places this year where I typically haven’t been strong yet still have put up a great qualifying effort. We’re getting really close to finally getting that first pole, and we’re looking forward to getting that out of the way so we don’t have to think about it anymore. The approach hasn’t changed though, we’ll continue to try to qualify as well as we have been so far. We’ve been so close so if we get it, great, if not, there will be more opportunities next year.
The race itself at Pocono was yet another long one. We get so strung out there because it’s a large, wide open racetrack and we run unrestricted. Two-tenths of a second can seem like a lot of time at that place. Personally, I think a 400-mile race would be a better option for Pocono. I think a shorter race is a better option than splitting it into two events, like the Indy Car Series did. I think it’s cool what the open wheel group did and that they’re trying different things. It just wouldn’t work for us. From a NASCAR perspective, we already have 36 races a year and don’t need to add any more points events.
In between Pocono and Michigan, we tested at Virginia International Raceway and it went well. Every team has a test hauler with cars, parts and pieces specifically for testing so we can have mid-week sessions like this. Anyway, we learned a lot and had good speed. Our results on the road courses haven’t been the greatest. However, at Watkins Glen last year, we had a good run going before breaking a track bar with about four laps remaining. We were right outside the top 15 and running behind a pack of cars that led up to the top 10. So we were absolutely competitive.
I think Sonoma is a different situation. It’s a lot more technical and challenging course than The Glen. Mistakes seem to cost more there through the entire lap so you pay a bigger price and bigger penalty. So we need to get a little better but that’s why we test and work hard on it. I think we’ll be in good shape for this weekend.
While I’ve been keeping busy with racing, I also managed to keep an eye on the Stanley Cup Finals. I definitely thought Vancouver was the better team going into the series. Obviously Boston outplayed them in every aspect. It was a good series, although I was a little disappointed in the seventh game. I actually stopped paying attention about halfway through that game until they brought the Stanley Cup out. I was really surprised to see that Vancouver’s offense didn’t show up. The series really changed when it shifted to Boston. On top of returning home, there was the hit and subsequent suspension of Aaron Rome that really motivated the Bruins. Tim Thomas really got hot in the net at the right time as well so that always helps. Playoff hockey is all about goal keeping and Thomas was on his stuff.
Despite the ups and downs that we’ve experienced in the past two months, our goals remain the same, we want to be consistent and win races. That doesn’t ever change. We want to get back into the top 20 in points obviously, which is getting to be more and more difficult with some of the issues we’ve had. This Furniture Row Racing team will keep fighting though. As always, we appreciate all of your support!
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