Hello everyone! Sorry that it has been a couple of weeks…but I promise that I have not forgotten about all my friends here on The Hot Lap. The month of July has been a busy one for sure. Especially the last two weekends with travelling between two tracks. Before I talk about Indy, I’m going to back up and catch you all up on the last few weeks with the Dollar General team.
Last we chatted I was on my way to Chicago and the Dollar General 300 Powered by Coca-Cola. That week I was the Nationwide Insurance Driver of the Week. We did a lot of cool things with Nationwide. I did a live chat on NASCAR.com and met with fans at the Joliet Race Fan Festival. They had a great turnout in Joliet. Thanks to everyone who came out! Our weekend on track at Chicagoland Speedway was decent and we ended up with an eight-place finish. It was also great visiting with my friends from Dollar General.
The following weekend we headed off to Gateway. I flew up a little early and caught the Cardinals game Thursday. Baseball games are always a great thing to do in the summertime. I’m hoping to get back to Atlanta for a Braves game soon but just don’t have a lot of free time this summer. Now, Gateway was an interesting race for sure. Wow, was it hot there! Especially for a very long, one-day show. We worked hard to get the car dialed in during the two practices but just really struggled to get grip in turns three and four. We qualified 13th for the race and expected the car’s handling to tighten up as the sun went down. We faced our biggest challenge after the first pit stop. I had a loose wheel and had to come back in under green. Fortunately, the rest of the race played out well and we ended up back up front towards the end. When some cars came to pit road for one last stop, we were out of tires so we restarted second. I only fell to third and then there were a bunch of cautions at the end and a green-white-checkered finish. The real excitement ended up at the end when the No. 60 and the No. 22 got into each other. My spotter had already warned me that it looked like there might be something coming, so he told me to be ready to stay low. I did and we ended up with a second-place finish.
Last weekend at Indianapolis was very busy and really hot. I flew on a helicopter from the big track (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) to ORP (O’Reilly Raceway Park) for Nationwide Series practice. I missed the first practice but was there for the final one. Then it was back to the big track for Cup practice. After that, I hurried up and changed and flew back to ORP for Nationwide qualifying. I knew the heat was starting to get to me a little bit so after I qualified the Dollar General car I headed back to my Braun Racing teammate, Brian Scott’s, motor home for some dinner and a little time in the air conditioning. It was the Dollar General CEO’s birthday and I was hoping to give him a visit to victory lane as a present. The car started out tight in the center so we made some adjustments on the first pit stop. Unfortunately, the changes made the car’s handling really loose. The next pit stop, Trent had the crew take the wedge adjustment out and made a small air pressure adjustment on the left rear. We found what we needed with that one. The handling was much better after that. The race there was a lot of fun! It is your typical Saturday night, short track racing. There was one lap where I got hit on my left rear and almost got sideways! We ended up finishing fifth, but it was a good points night. The No. 32 team moved back up to fifth in the owner’s championship point standings. Another cool thing that weekend for Braun Racing and Dollar General was that Jacques Villeneuve qualified the No. 32 Dollar General car into the Brickyard 400. That is a very big deal for those guys. It’s a tough race to make and that was the first Cup car built in-house at Braun Racing. Congrats out to Trent Owens (he was crew chief on both cars that weekend) and to the whole team.
This weekend, the Nationwide Series is racing in Iowa. It is a standalone race with the Cup Series in Pocono. Our practice was rained out yesterday. It was raining when I got on a plane to fly to Newton and we had hoped it would clear up. About 20 minute before we got there, we used the plane phone to call for an update and they told us that it was officially cancelled. We turned around and headed back to Pennsylvania. They will practice this morning but I’ll be here in Pocono. My teammate, Jason Leffler, is going to jump in the car and run a few laps to shake it down. After Cup practice, I’ll head out of here again and will land in Iowa just in time for Nationwide Series qualifying. We race tonight at 7:30 pm ET. You can catch it LIVE on ESPN2.
Thanks again for following me on here and have a great weekend!