Monday, October 19, 2009

NAPA AUTO PARTS Team Finishes 32nd at Lowe’s Motor Speedway

CONCORD, N.C. – Michael Waltrip and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team led three laps before an incident on pit road took them out of competitive contention. The setback was unfortunate since Waltrip had a fast car during Saturday night’s NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The team put into motion several strategies but the deficit was too much to overcome and resulted in a 32nd-place finish.

“Gene (Nead, crew chief) and the NAPA guys gave me a good car,” said Waltrip who qualified 33rd for the NASCAR Banking 500. “I really had something to work with and we ended up having a problem on pit road that cost us some laps. At that point, we had to take chances with the wave around. We had to live with our circumstances and make the most of a bad situation.”

Before the pit road incident, crew chief Gene Nead made the call to keep his driver out during routine pit stops under caution. The call put the NAPA AUTO PARTS/Susan G. Komen Foundation Toyota atop the leader board for three laps. Then on the following pit stop on lap 91, Waltrip’s luck changed. Nead called his driver in for a scheduled stop. What was not anticipated was a long stop by the No. 83 Red Bull team who was pitted behind the No. 55. Waltrip entered his pit as driver Brian Vickers finally got going. It resulted in a near miss, two NAPA crew members colliding on pit road and a tire rolling out of the team’s pit box. Jack man Tony Cardamone sustained a high-ankle sprain and is expected to be out for at least two to three races.

When all was said and done, Waltrip was down three laps and in 40th position. Nead and the team started implementing the wave-around strategy in an effort to get the laps back that the NAPA team had lost. The first opportunity happened on lap 119 when NASCAR threw the yellow flag after Kyle Busch spun on the track. The team opted to stay out to get a lap back. Unfortunately, the team lost the lap when they had to pit for fuel and four tires under green at lap 147.

Another wave around opportunity took place on lap 163 after Juan Pablo Montoya spun on the track. Waltrip stayed out and Nead encouraged his driver as his lap times were faster when running the high line. This time the gamble paid off as Montoya’s rear quarter panel fell off causing a debris caution on lap 188. Waltrip pitted for four fresh tires and fuel. He returned to the track in 38th position, two laps down to the leader, Matt Kenseth, when the race went back to green on lap 194.

By the 300-lap mark, Waltrip had made his way up to 32nd place. His car was consistently turning laps as fast as the top-20 cars, but the loss of laps prevented the No. 55 Toyota from getting back into the mix. The team continued on to finish 32nd.

Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson proved he was not only the fastest car in qualifying, but he had a car that would win the race. Johnson prevailed to win his sixth race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. His victory stretched his points lead over teammate Mark Martin to 90 points.

Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch.

Waltrip teammate David Reutimann battled flu-like symptoms to persevere to a 15th-place finish. Marcos Ambrose scored 22nd.

Next Sunday the NAPA team returns to the short track of Martinsville Speedway. Broadcast coverage begins Sunday at 1 pm eastern on ABC. It can also be heard on MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

1 comment:

  1. I ended up getting info on the race from PRN and Twitter...ESPN no-coverage sucked!! Some people care about drivers other than Johnson & Jr.
    Christy Martin