Talladega Superspeedway is one race that we had circled on our calendar all year with the goal of having our best performance of the season. The Premium Motorsports organization put in a great deal of time in both our #94 truck and #62 car. All of that effort paid off this past weekend with both race vehicles having a great speed.
The weekend started off with the Camping World Truck Series. Normally we keep practice very limited on the superspeedways because of the large risks that can happen while running with a large pack of cars at a high rate of speed. Our plan was to only run the first practice and learn all we could before calling it a day. In that practice, we knew right away we were going to have a good truck for the race. I could put our #94 truck in any position on the track and the speed was showing as we were 13th on the speed charts. The next morning we rolled into qualifying with the race following right after. Qualifying format this year was a single car, 1 lap format. I hit a nice smooth lap that put us 25th fastest for the race. Knowing that we had a very fast truck, I began visualizing how I wanted to approach this race. Having some of my best runs at this track like my 6th place run here in 2013, I was just trying to remember what seemed to work best then.
The green flag drops and we are underway! Right away I saw some openings to move up in the running order. In the first stint we moved from 25th to 12th before the first caution. We would come down for fuel only and discover that we had an issue. Our fuel can seem to only allow the fuel to flow at a much slower pace from how it normally should. This cost us a lot of track position as we fell all the way to the back. Knowing that this track is just a giant chess match, we all knew that there was plenty of time to work our way back to the front. As the green flag waved again we began to work our way back towards the front of the field. I was able to position myself all the way up to the 8th position at the mid point in the race and found myself in good company. We would end up having a long green flag run which meant we would make green flag pit stops. I made my way to pit road but once again we had fuel can problems that caused a lengthy pit stop. As we made our way back to the track we found ourselves running in the 14th position so we didn’t lose to much ground. The caution flew and the race took another turn for us.
As we are riding under caution in the 14th position, I get the call on the radio that we didn’t get enough fuel in the truck to make it to the end of the race. This was disheartening because there was only 15 laps remaining and to get to the back to the front again with that amount of laps left was going to be very tough. We came down pit road and filled it up and restarted at the tail. Everyone on the track was getting very aggressive and wild but once again we began to work our way back forward. We got all the way up to 16th before a caution flew again. At this point in the race is where everyone goes to panic mode so it was time to take a deep breath and prepare myself for about anything. 6 laps to go and the green flag dropped. I found myself trailing behind Johnny Sauter and notice he was making very aggressive moves. We were picking up spots but Johnny got to greedy… he caused a tremendous crash off of turn 2 which collected a lot of trucks including me.
Our truck was hurt pretty bad but we are trying to keep the truck in the top 20 in owners points so our guys went to work. With there only being 3 laps left in the race, we just needed the truck to roll around for a couple laps. The entire front end was cut off the truck but we got back out there to finish 20th. No matter what the outcome was in that race, this was by far the most fun we as a team had all year. We ran inside the top ten a lot of the race and displayed our hard work with a very fast truck. I can’t thank everyone at Premium Motorsports enough for letting me drive that hot rod!
As quickly as this race ended, I had a new agenda which was qualifying our #62 Sprint Cup car into the race. Once again we had a single car, one lap qualifying format. Less than an hour after the truck race I climb back behind the wheel and held it to the floor. For those who didn’t know, we didn’t have any provisionals to fall back on so we had to beat at least 9 cars to make Sundays race. We ended up beating 13 cars and qualifying a season best of 32nd! This great qualifying all came down to the continued hard work that everyone puts in here at Premium Motorsports.
Sundays race we had a different agenda. With how aggressive we had to be to make the race, we would have to pit and go behind the wall to make a lot of changes before returning to the race. So the green flag waved and on lap 2 we had to pit. Our guys worked as quickly as they could to make the changes in the least amount of time possible. We were in and out of the garage in 7 laps. Now all we needed was some caution flags… but unfortunately for us the race had virtually no cautions flags all race. We drove the first 133 laps green flag which is unheard of at Talladega. We were in a very tough spot as we could not make our laps up so we ran the best race we could and just hoped for some attrition to help us move up. Well we never got any and would wind up finishing 41st.
Even though neither race really played out how we had hoped for, I can’t express how much fun I had this whole weekend. We ran great in the truck race all day and I earned my best qualifying effort with the Cup team. We went home with our heads held high and high hopes are reset again for Martinsville next week!