Phoenix was actually a pretty good weekend from the start. Practice went good, qualifying was OK. I think we ended up qualifying 17th and within the first 20 laps I think we were up to ninth, so the car was just really good in the beginning. We took two tires on the first stop and that made it too tight. In the spring race, towards the end of the race we were really tight and so we just put on two left sides to free it up, and that’s really what brought the car to life and got us a top-10 finish that time but this time it just made it way way way too free. We lost all the forward drive and really just lost a whole lot of time on that run. We were just hanging on to it until we could get to a pit stop and get those tires off and just start over with putting four fresh tires on and making some adjustments. We did that on the last stop. It seemed like that’s what everybody did. There really wasn’t a whole lot of tire fall off but it seemed like you got faster as you ran so that was the last set of tires we put on.
We got ourselves through some late-race restarts. It was really important whether you restarted on the top because if you restarted on the bottom you gained a spot and if you restarted on the top you lost a spot. It kind of evened out for us with all the restarts we had. We were able to hang on at the top on the very last one and get by the 11 car on the last lap and get a seventh-place finish. It was a good day. We gained some points on the car we needed to for a top 5 in points and put ourselves in a good position for that here in Miami.
The goal is top 5 in points in Miami. We’re not going to try to do anything special. We’re going to stick with what we have been doing for the second half of the season. It seems like ourselves and the 31, we’re always within one or two spots of each other so both teams, if we do what we’ve been doing we should be in good shape and hopefully neither one of us has bad luck and we’ll get to race for it towards the end.
After Phoenix, driver retaliation is the big subject everyone has been talking about. I think NASCAR handled it properly. Jeff Gordon was out of the championship and it wasn’t like Clint really took him out. We see that all the time with guys getting together and cutting down tires. It’s not intentional. Clint, especially with the trouble the 48 car had, really was the next guy in line to have a shot at catching the 2 this weekend. I hate seeing people tear up equipment in general on the racetrack, let alone when there are championship implications. The drivers aren’t the ones who have to fix the race cars and we’re not the ones who have to pay for them. I just hate seeing guys retaliate using the car. If they’re going to do something they need to handle it off the track, maybe not to the extent that they did, but we’ve seen it a bunch of times where guys hop out and express their opinion and then we go on. I’m pretty happy with NASCAR’s penalties. I just don’t like seeing people use their race cars and tearing up the cars.
This is the last race weekend of the year and then we have the holidays. I don’t really have a Thanksgiving tradition. This year I’m going to go to the Dominican Republic on Thanksgiving Day and stay there for about four or five days. Then when I come back, I’m taking a guys trip to Myrtle Beach for a weekend and then not too long after that it will be about the time I usually go home for Christmas. I usually go back to Des Moines for about 14 or 15 days. Then when I come back it will be time to get ready for next year!
We’re going to build four to six new cars. We’re really looking forward to that. We were using some of the older stuff this year and they were just a little bit heavier so we’ll get some lighter cars and new paint schemes and we’ll be ready to go in February. There are always a couple surprises of team members who move on and take new opportunities, but hopefully there’s nothing like that this year because I’m really happy with our team. Everybody really gets along and hopefully we’ll show up in February with a little different paint scheme but the whole team still intact.
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