It’s been a great two months for us with the Stanley DEWALT team. We’ve had some really good races. We’ve had some great finishes. We’ve qualified well. We had Phoenix and that was a good day for us. We finished in the top ten. We ran well all day. We had good car speed in qualifying and finished third. It was a lot of fun and the new track and new surface was cool. It was just good to have a good weekend when the slate was even for everybody. Everybody really had the same experience around the place. It was good that we ran so well.
Since the last diary we’ve been to Atlanta, Richmond, Chicago, and New Hampshire. That’s a tough run right there. We haven’t done much really in four weeks. We’ve been stepping on ourselves a little bit. We had a good Chicago and were running in the top ten and got dumped by Kevin Harvick in pit lane coming to the last pit stop. We spun sideways and damaged the nose. It was a good run for us, ran top ten all day, but just couldn’t close the deal.
Atlanta was just OK. We got rained out there and we just didn’t quite get the car right. We battled and finished 21st. It was just a long day. We didn’t quite have the speed that we wanted but we weren’t disgraceful.
Indy was a disappointment for us. I actually scuffed the right side of the car up at the start of practice and really set us back for it. It took me a while to get my confidence back. We had a quiet day. We just weren’t quite quick enough and then I broke fourth gear. We were 15th I think when I broke the gear on one of the restarts. The team did an incredible job to switch the gear box around and only lose three laps, but it was just a real shame finishing like that in one of the biggest races of the year.
We went to Pocono and I finished the second Pocono. In the first one I broke a gear box as well, so I was very anxious about that weekend. I was so concerned about the gear that I actually didn’t have the most perfect gear combination to try to protect it in the race pace. We had some brake issues too. Just a quiet day there. We finished 20th.
We had high expectations going to Sonoma and we did a lot of work on the car to be as ready as we could be. With a new team it’s always difficult to get road racing just because you don’t have the history. You don’t have the setups. We tested a lot. We felt like we were as prepared as we could be going there. What threw us for a loop there was that the tire that Goodyear brought was very different from what we expected and it just took us a long time to feel comfortable with the tire and we never really did. We underperformed to our own expectations there. I’m happy to get a top 5 but it was a struggle all day to really ride at the front. We were a top 5 car but it was a lot of hard work to stay there. It was a solid weekend for us but not the weekend we were looking for. We had a million dollars to race for for the kids who are sick, we had a big charity day with the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and I feel like we let an opportunity slip. That being said I feel like we did the best with what we could do with the tools we had.
Talladega was really disappointing. We teamed up with Carl at the start of the race and we agreed that we should be hanging back a little bit, just let it all thin out and play out. We were running so well together we just couldn’t resist, we kept moving up there. The one time I pushed him up there I just got taken out by a car that came across us. He spun out and came across the track and I had no idea it was coming. It was just a really disappointing end. The superspeedways have really hurt us this year so far.
Then we had a great Dover and Charlotte couple of weeks there. We finished third in the Open, nearly transferred to the feature and had a great 600, where we led a lot of laps and were in contention to win.
Bristol was about learning the car. It was our first short track with the team so there was a lot to learn. It was a different tire there as well, so there was a lot to adjust to. I think we did a really nice job adapting to the day. We finished 15th which was a solid night for us. We fought hard to stay on the lead lap all night. We learned an awful lot from it. I think if we could have done another race the next day we would have done even better just because of getting that first short track race under our belt. It’s always a challenging one and I was proud of the run.
Fontana was a big disappointment.
Daytona was obviously very disappointing for us. We got caught up in a lap 25 crash. Absolutely not necessary for that time of the race, so we just got a very bad start. We were all feeling the pressure heading to Phoenix, and we bounced back well. We had a strong day and ran in the top 15 all day. We finished 16th in the end on strategy. We got out of cycle with the rest of the field. I felt like it was a really good day for us. We worked well as a team and we’re getting to know each other and all those good things. I drove well and I think the team and I really started to find out our bugs. We got to Las Vegas and had a great weekend. We qualified on the front row, ran top 10 all day and deserved our top 5 finish.
Last year was a very trying year for me. I made some big decisions halfway through to try and shake things up for 2011, and give myself the best chance to answer some questions for myself about what kind of driver I am. We went through a lot of troubles and turmoils after that, but we got through it all very well and here we are getting ready for a new season. We’ve had a great offseason preparing for this year. I’m working really well with my new team and I’m excited not just for this week but every week throughout the season. It’s a big year for me no doubt. I can feel the pressure of wanting to perform for not just myself, but the King, the King’s fans, the team, and the employees of Stanley and DEWALT and everyone else who is supporting us. It’s definitely a make or break year for me to really present myself as a top 10 Cup driver and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Last diary we were on our way to Talladega. It was a great day. We were coming off a solid run at Martinsville when we were going there and we led laps again at Talladega which is always fun. I felt like we had a strong day but we got caught up in a really …
We’ve visited California, Charlotte and Martinsville over the last few weeks. It’s been pretty thin on the results side, but we’ve run well and we led a lot of laps at Martinsville which was great. I’m not sure what happened there halfway through the race, it just didn’t go our way. That was a strong …