I got a surprise. I’ve kind of been down and out lately, not running the way I want to on the racetrack, and then Michael Waltrip called me out of the clear blue to see if I would race (the No. 00 Sprint Cup car) at Talladega. I really needed that–an old dog needs a bone–and I was able to go to Talladega and qualify 14th and finish 12th. In the meanwhile, people talked good about me, and that lifted my spirits up. I really had to run that race on defense. There was a lot of pressure to make sure I got the maximum points for Michael Waltrip Racing. So I raced the way I had to run, and we finished 12th. I felt I got the very best finish I could have possibly got. I was fighting for 10th spot with Elliott Sadler and Aric Almirola as we came off turn 4 to the checkered flag. So we finished 12th.
Joey Logano made a strong bid early, but Kyle Busch again dominated the Nationwide Series field, leading 137 laps to score a relatively easy win in Friday’s Dollar General 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Busch was briefly challenged in the race’s final laps by Jeff Burton, who, unlike the other leaders, opted for four tires on his final pit stop. Burton, however, was unable to make up enough ground on the high side to clear Busch’s No. 18.
With these cooler fall days and nights, sometimes curling up with a good book is just the ticket to a good time. Whether you’re a newer fan or a veteran, there are many great racing-themed books to choose from. With the possible exception of those by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart, you might have missed these titles. Some racing books are better then others, and some are must-reads. Here’s my list of NASCAR books you must read, the best of the best the library has to offer.
After Bristol, we went to California where the team was dealt a severe blow. We thought that our crew chief, Kenneth Campbell, was on the mend (from an infection), that he was going to get better. The whole team, we all got out to California, and then around 9:00, I got a phone call from Jay Robinson telling me that Kenneth had passed away. It was devastating to all of us, but especially Jay. Jay and Kenneth got along real well–Kenneth had been with the team for six years. I got the call around 9:00, 9:40 local time, and I went over to the hotel. The team was in shock.
The Nationwide Series took to a short track for the second time in three weeks and, also for the second time in three weeks, Clint Bowyer dominated the race. And nonetheless, for the second time in three weeks, Bowyer failed to score the win. Despite leading 195 of the 250 laps run, Bowyer’s car went to the loose side late in the running, allowing fellow title contender Carl Edwards to sneak by late and score his fourth Nationwide victory of the season. Bowyer finished third, after he was passed by Scott Wimmer with less than 15 laps to go.
It’d be kind of ironic — given that I wrote a column on driver marketability a few weeks ago — if the topic had been shot to the forefront of the sport, wrapped around what is probably close to the last of the major teams’ driver signings. Yet, that’s exactly what happened when Penske Racing South made David Stremme the official driver of the No. 12 Dodge for 2009 and beyond, a move that might at least score them the award for Worst Kept Secret of the Year. And, despite being long rumored, the move still surprises me — because Penske could have done better.
For the first time in my career, we ran back-to back road-course races. They were both very interesting. Being able to race in Montreal in the rain was a feather in my cap. You know, years from now, the stats will show that I was one of the 43 drivers who raced in the first-ever points race (in the Nationwide Series) run on rain tires. From that standpoint, it was really nice. But, it was a really dangerous race near the end. I could see for maybe 35 laps, then all of a sudden, I just couldn’t see anything. I had no windshield wipers; we weren’t prepared for it. Thank God they cancelled the race (when they did), and we were past halfway.
My last month of racing has not been stellar by any means. We feel like we should be achieving a little bit more. At our race team, we have every right to make excuses about why we don’t run real good, because we probably have, oh, maybe 25% of the budget that most people have. Anyway, we could have made excuses as to why we don’t run good, but I really feel that my team is talented enough that we can overachieve and become better than what we are. From that viewpoint, we feel like we can take equipment and motors and things that we have and be respectful. Our goal is to always finish in the top 20.
Fans can vote online this year for the Most Popular Driver award in eight touring series other than Sprint Cup. That’s great. What’s not so great is NASCAR’s reluctance to put some drivers on the ballot at all. As of Wednesday of this week, Wallace wasn’t on the Nationwide Series ballot, despite being a series regular. Neither were Mike Wallace or Steve Wallace, also full-time drivers in the series. Many fans complained, and those names were added to the ballot, a week after voting opened. But what of the other drivers who have raced in the series? Where are their names?
“I’ll do it” Famous last words, and apparently they had just come from my lips. I was with the No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol team and driver Kenny Wallace a few minutes before the start of the Camping World RV Sales 200 on Saturday when I said those words, and I’d uttered them in response to the team’s realization that they were short a pit crew member–specifically they needed someone to hold the pit sign that tells the driver where to stop. So, before my brain could actually process what it was doing, my mouth said, “I’ll do it.”