I went to Michigan to redeem myself. It’s always been a hard track for me. I like Michigan. It doesn’t bother me at all. But when I’d go there, I’d just never have a good run. It’s kind of like the way Matt Kenseth never has a good time at Martinsville; I’ve never had a good time at Michigan. We were running good, top 15, and I came in to pit and Trevor Bayne was looking down at his tach. He didn’t see me and ran into the back of me and about spun me out. We never did recover after that. The car got really loose on me, and then we ran it out of gas on a pit stop, so nothing turned out good, but that was in the past. I’m looking forward now.
Road America is a race I really like to go to. It’s such a different atmosphere. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. You’re up there in Wisconsin and there’s nothing but trees and land and it’s really beautiful. They dropped the green flag, we got up to eighth or ninth, things were going great, and then the car started falling apart! It was the craziest thing. I’ve got a great team; we just had a rough time. The shifter broke. The knob on the shifter broke off, and at the same time, the motor died. We were like, ‘what the heck is going on here?’ Come to find out, the battery literally fell out of the race car.
I don’t know what happened, if we just didn’t bolt the plate on that holds it in, but the battery fell out. We went only one lap down fixing it because the track is so long. We were the lucky dog, we were running really good, and the trailing arm that holds the rear end of the car literally broke off. It almost became laughable. My car owner, Robby Benton, was very upset, but I just laughed it off. I said , ‘Okay, I give.’ The third thing was the charm. It was a TKO-it took me down. We finished the race, but it was crazy. So that was two weeks of tough racing. I’m glad that’s over.
At Daytona we set out to redeem ourselves. It was like the racing demons were trying to get me. We qualified 19th and after inspection my car was too low, so NASCAR made me start 42nd because there were only 42 cars. So I started last and worked my way up toward the front. Everything was going good, and then I made a mistake. I switched lanes on a restart like David Ragan did in the Daytona 500. I had to do a drive through pit road penalty for changing lanes before the start. Luckily about three laps later, the caution came out.
So we got back to racing, and I wanted to draft with my brother Mike, but Toyota wanted me to hook up with Brian Scott, my Toyota teammate. So I hooked up with him and with about three laps to go we were doing great, but I about spun him out, and we lost the leaders, and we lost our draft. So he came back to push me and when he was pushing me were running down the leaders so fast it was funny. We came back from almost a straightaway back and when we were coming off Turn 4, we were passing Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski for 13th spot. Then the leaders started wrecking so I dove down and it was true-I passed through the grass and made it to seventh spot. They said Dale Earnhardt passed in the grass, but he never did really make a pass. He just went through the grass. I literally passed in the grass. I didn’t really realize how fast I was going until I saw the replay and I laughed. That was like a comedy. I looked like I was going 200 miles an hour through the grass. So I got penalized for being too low, I did a drive through for changing lanes, but we persisted and ended up getting seventh.
Kentucky was fun. I enjoy racing there. Lo and behold, it ended up being a fuel mileage race. It was a really simple race. I was really loose; the car wasn’t handling getting in the corners, so we had to strategize and try to get a better finish than 15th. So the Toyota engineers along with my crew chief, Scott Zipadelli, said, ‘hey, let’s work some strategy here.’ So they started telling me to slow up a little bit, and I started slowing up just a little bit, and it worked out in our favor. I went from 15th to sixth. So anyway, the guys did a good job. We didn’t have a real good racecar, so we used strategy to go from 15th to sixth.
I’m really proud of my team. That was our seventh top 10 of the year. Kyle Petty told me something at Kentucky. He said sometimes things just all even themselves out. He told me, ‘you were running third at Richmond and you had a bad pit stop and finished 13th.’ So he was right-at Richmond earlier in the year, we were running third and screwed up on a pit stop and finished 13th, and then at Kentucky we were running 15th and finished sixth. So it really does even itself out. We were leading at Talladega and burnt the wiring up. So we’ve had some races where things happened, but we’ve had some good finishes on gas mileage and so yeah-sometime it works out!
I’m beside myself excited. I’m going to Loudon as if it was the race at Richmond. Loudon was my race track for a long time. I have a win there. This is the first time since 2006 when I was with ppc Racing that I feel like this could possibly be my first win of the season. We’re taking the car we ran at Phoenix and my team has worked really hard on the setup. I’m really happy. The fans up there are my people. We also have our big fan club meeting up there. I feel really good, really positive.
I went to Washington DC this week. I’d flown through there so many times and I never got to enjoy the history and the deep secrets. I went up there to speak in front of 350 farmers on behalf of American Ethanol. I was almost brought to tears. I gave my speech and for the first time in my life, and I’ve had people give me good applause for speeches, but the whole room stood up and gave me a standing ovation. It gave me goosebumps.
Farmers get picked on. People say farmers are the reason for high food prices and this and that. I told them that I represent them. We showed a video of our run at Richmond because that car was sponsored by American Ethanol and ran in the top 3 all night. So we started with a three-minute video, and then I did a seven-minute speech. It’s a three-day show for the farmers. They’re going to the Senate. It made me feel good that they approved of what I’m doing, the family farmers all over the United States and the people with the ethanol plants. For them to give me a standing ovation and tell me I’m their guy, it made me feel really good.
When that was over, I realized that my family and I need to go to Washington, DC and spend three days or so. I want to take them to the Smithsonian Institute and of course the mall where Forrest Gump went chasing after Jenny in the movie. Washington, DC is such an important place for our country. I like history. I love watching the History Channel. A lot of people don’t know that about me. I told Kim that when the weather cools down, we’re going to find three days at the end of this year and we’re going back to Washington, DC as tourists!
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