This past weekend I was a double duty driver. After having a great race Friday afternoon in the Camping World Truck Series earning a 15th place finish, I was ready to back that up the following day with another solid performance. But… sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Let me explain.
For the Xfinity Series, the teams are given two practice sessions. As we hit the track for our first couple of laps, I realize that once again I have a great driver car. I could drive down the high banks at Dover, pick up the throttle early and dig out of the corners. Man I was feeling good about this car. Holding our own inside the top 25 in practice, we decided to call it quits for session 1 early and prepare for the second practice session. As I go into the hauler to debrief about first practice I notice a sense of urgency from one of our crew guys. As I followed him back out of our hauler I found out our day was about to be ten times longer.
My teammate / car owner Carl Long was making his final run in practice. As he drove down into the corner behind the 97 car, a piece of tungsten(weight) flies out from under the 97 and straight into the frontend of Carl Long’s #13 car. With the speeds of the cars rolling at 130-150 mph, that piece of tungsten went straight through the radiator and into the motor causing Carl to lose steering, sending him into the wall destroying his car. As most of you know, this is a very small low budgeted race team that does its best to get to the race track this week. So we didn’t know what to do.
What we normally do is carry another racecar in a small trailer, behind the team van that we drive to the tracks in case of emergency. Well we finally had to use it. Unfortunately it wasn’t prepared to hit the track so a lot of work was needing to be done to it. So we aborted the 2nd practice session for me in the 40 car to put all of our efforts into helping Carl prepare this back up car to hopefully make a few laps in 2nd practice. After a lot of hard work, we were able to get the backup #13 on track. The bad part of it is that we couldn’t put the same style of setup in the back up car so it was a handful. The day ended so we had a night to think of ideas for what to do for qualifying and the race.
Qualifying rolled around the next morning and we were back to work. Carl had his backup #13 ready to go as best as he could and I was ready to get back to driving the #40. We tried saving cost this weekend because of the wrecked car so I qualified on 15 lap tires. Normally that would mean we wouldn’t have much speed in the car with old tires but we put down the 27th fastest speed. That just shows how good we got our #40 car! After qualifying, my plans would change. Carl qualified his #13 car and felt pains in his chest while on the track. We take for granted how safe these cars are now days but Carl took a big hit in practice and he was feeling it. After a lot of thinking Carl wasn’t sure if he could go the entire distance in the race with the pains so what we decided to do was switch cars. A lot of people would ask why we did this, and to answer your question is because we are trying to keep the #13 car up in the owners points because it provides bonus programs to the prize purse after each race, so its important that the #13 finishes all the races.
Knowing that this car wasn’t fully ready to go(drivability wise), I was prepared for a long day driving the #13. The green flag waved and I did my best to learn everything I could about this car in a hurry. Luckily there was a quick caution which allowed us to make some changes pretty quick. After the first couple changes, we got the car driving pretty decent and began to pass some cars. We drove from 40th into the top 30 in the first portion of the race. We continued to march forward into the 25th spot at the halfway portion of the race. I was extremely happy with this because I know we were no where near prepared to race this car. However bad luck couldn’t stay away from this team this weekend. With just 40 to go we broke the track bar mount taking us out of the race. We would still finish 31st but its frustrating and disappointing for everyone how many things went wrong. This is a small team but we will all pick our heads up, rebuild the cars, and go at it again in the next race.