Most of you know that I always love going to the high banked super speedways of Daytona and Talladega because of how well I’ve always raced on these tracks. My last two trips to Daytona both ended with great results of top ten finishes. So when I got the news that I would be driving the JGL Racing #26 Toyota in Daytona, my eyes lit up knowing that I would have another shot to go after that Daytona win one more time!
We hit the track that Friday for two rounds of practice. Our plan was to go out in first practice & test our #26 car in the draft to assure that the car drove okay and all the parts and pieces reacted okay. First practice was smooth sailing as the car drove great in the draft and we sat 16th quickest on the speed charts. The qualifying format has changed from February to being back to single car on the racetrack for 1 lap. So in second practice that is what we simulated. Now this had me smiling ear to ear… when I looked up at the scoreboard and we were 5th fastest at the end of practice!
After hardly sleeping I woke up the next day ready for a great night of racing. First on our agenda was qualifying. After having two great practice sessions yesterday, we knew we would have good speed in qualifying. We put down a fast speed of 178.228 mph for our lap which put us 18th to start the race. This would be by far my best starting position to start a super speedway race so I was very pleased at the work the JGL Racing team did to prepare me a fast car. Now it was time for the race!
After having a brief rain delay, all 40 teams were ready to race! I strapped in with the mindset of getting to the end of the race and leaving myself a shot to win the race. Pace car off….3….2….1….green flag and we were off. Daytona is one of those tracks were your running order can changed drastically from lap to lap. Early in the race I’ve found myself running inside the top 10 then the very next lap running 30th. This track has a lot of yoyo effects where you bounce back and forth in running order all race long. A lot of things happen through out these speedway races and the big thing is keeping my mind calm because wrecks happen quick here. That seemed to be the theme as the beginning of the race had 3 quick cautions.
The tempo of the race changed though as after the 3rd yellow flag we had a long green flag run. That run lasted 40-50 laps forcing everyone to make green flag stops through out the run. In the process of all that, the draft packs split apart letting the lead pack get away from us. Ultimately this would trap us a lap down. We had to fight hard the remainder of the race to try to get that lap back but never caught the right caution to put us back on the lead lap. However we didn’t give up! We dodged some big wrecks and raced as hard as we could and we rebounded to finish 11th when it was all said and done.
We had some unfortunate events happen in the middle of the longest green flag run that trapped us from going after that win but to come out of Daytona with a 11th place finish is absolutely great! I want to win this race so bad but after reflecting back on everything that happened, this was truly a great weekend. I want to thank JGL Racing and Toyota for this great opportunity! They gave me a car that could win and have a great race, & let me say that I had a blast out there on the race track! I am happy to announce that I will be back behind the wheel of the JGL Racing #26 car again this week in Kentucky, so tune in next week as well everyone. Thanks for reading!