This weekend was a new experience for me. This past weekend was my first trip to Gateway Motorsport Park. Being able to run in the Camping World Truck Series this year allows me to race at a couple tracks I've never raced on before. How did I prepare for this? Well most of my friends know about this special tool I use, and that tool is the iracing.com racing simulator. Before I leave for race tracks, especially tracks I've never been to, I turn hundreds if not thousands of laps on iracing's online simulator to prepare myself for all the characteristics a particular track may have. Everything I learned on the simulator really paid off because after the first laps of practice we were showing great speed along with myself being extremely comfortable with the race track. Throughout practice we had to make very little changes to our #94 truck as we were solidly in the top 20 on the speed charts for most of the practice. Feeling comfortable about our race truck, we elected to save a set of sticker tires for the race and not make a mock qualifying run in our only practice session. Qualifying was up next for us. As I climbed in my truck for qualifying, we could see storm clouds rolling in. The green flag waved for qualifying and we were forced to make a decision. We decided to roll out and turn a time, hoping the storms would not make it to the track before qualifying wrapped up. We had a great pick up from practice putting us 12th on the board after about 20 trucks hit the race track. Unfortunately this wouldn't matter because the rain moved in canceling the rest of qualifying and line us up 23rd based on practice speeds.
I was bummed about qualifying because I know we could have qualified way better than 23rd but I knew we could make everything up in the race. As the green flag dropped for the race we immediately picked up a handful of spots moving us into the top 20. We were taking our time passing one truck at a time before I began to notice some sort of brake issue. We never lost brakes but they we not all engaging like they should have been causing us to lose time on the track. Unfortunate for us the first segment of the race was all green flag runs and this cost us to fall 1 lap behind the trucks we should have been racing. We were able to overcome the brake issues and get the truck running better but we were never able to get back on the lap with the trucks we were racing and ultimately finish 18th.
18th is not a bad night, especially for never racing on this track. I think we were very capable of racing inside the top 15 but I had a blast racing Gateway for the first time. All we can do is keep our heads up, bring our #94 truck back to the shop and get it even faster for our next race this weekend at Iowa! Iowa has been a great track for me in the Xfinity Series, so the experience should roll over to the trucks nicely and we can get the job done. Stay tuned in for next week's report!