Monday, May 25, 2009

Meandering among the Marbles! Coca-cola 600!

    The Coca-Cola 600 may be remembered as one with sadness, jubilation, reverence, and of course, controversy.

    Sadness? I still find myself reading articles critically, and comparing them to the articles by recently departed David Poole. Lowes Motorspeedway dedicated the Media Deadline room to the memory of Poole, a very fitting tribute. Poole continues to be missed by fans and peers alike.

    Jubilation? The look on Buzzy Ruetimann's face while his son David was being interviewed after being announced as race winner. Our parents are always proud of us, but Buzzy was so proud to be sharing this moment-in-time with his boy!

    Reverence? NASCAR decided to take part in the National Moment of Remembrance. Stopping the cars on the front-stretch, and asking pit crew members to stand on the wall, and the fans to stand for a full minute was very touching. Sadly, I have seen many complaints on the internet that it 'robbed' the fans of 25 laps of racing. When so many of our service members have fallen, perhaps some of the fans in our sport need to realize there are far more important things in life than a moment taken away of our enjoyment.

    Controversy? Check it out!

    Rainy Daze? Fans have short memories. When the 2008 race in California went late before being called, we complained that NASCAR waited too long. When the Daytona race was cut short, we complained it was called too soon. And now, fans are making both of those complaints about the 600! Apparently, it depended on where you driver was finishing if it was called too soon, too late, or just right.

    Looming Lawsuit? The Jeremy Mayfield drug testing scandal still looms over the NASCAR Nation. Mayfield's attorney, Bill Diehl hinted that he was prepared to file a law suit on Friday. However, it is likely that he thought better of it, as the holiday and the race weekend would over shadow the suit. In the meantime, NASCAR tested ten crew members for substance abuse, which would never have been newsworthy if it hadn't been for the Mayfield case. And one can't help but ponder....if Mayfields test was invalid, does that make all of the 'clean' tests of the other drivers invalid also?

    No emotions? Tony Stewart and David Reutimann had a discussion on pit road, with Tony once again expressing displease with drivers who don't move out of his way. A crewman,Dwayne Bigger, from the #00 team interjected, and we saw him genuflect and bow to Tony, as if he were worshiping Tony's footsteps. Tony's response was to call the team member Big Bad Butt, which is a name that will always stay with that crewman! Look for it on the back of his uniform at Dover!

    Start and Park to make money? The Start and Park controversy continues, as Scott Riggs announced that he was parting ways with Tommy Baldwins team. "It kills my soul to know that we go to the race track and we’re not going to be competitive. Even if the car is competitive, we’re not going to be there around at the end to be competitive." We watch as race after race, the same cars will run a few laps and then exit the track. Even the 'grass roots' team of TRG Motorsports had to resort to a couple of races where they 'developed problems' and left the race early.

    Today, we saw the 09 entry of James Finch leave the race after 42 laps. It was noted by at least one crew member that they were packed up to leave before the end of the first red flag. Finch has qualified successfully for 8 of the 12 races this season. His car has been running at the end for two of those eight. Granted, one of those was a win, but the truth of it is the vast majority of his entries have been Start & Park. Then, when you look at the prize money for this race, you discover that a car that finished the whole race, and finished 15 spots ahead brought home less than $1400 more in prize money for all of that extra racing. Since the #71 entry used up five sets of tires that were not even purchased by the 09 entry, it doesn't make sense for a team to run the whole race! NASCAR promised they would research this, but no action has been taken. At this point, they really show that it is not important to them.

    Ad naseum? Don't forget! We still have the great debate about the two Jr's of the 99 team. Also, will Jeff Gordon retire early? Is a rain finish or a fuel finish a true finish? And, there are plenty more stories where those came from!

    On to Dover! The one thing about NASCAR fans, is that we are resilient. We will find something new to discuss after the race next week! Thank heavens! Because once we look at these few items, there really was not much exciting about this race. It will remain largely forgettable!

    Gilliland Finishes Rain Shortened Coke 600 in 27th

    Press Release
    May 25, 2009

    David Gilliland
    David Gilliland
    Charlotte, North Carolina, (May 25, 2009) - David Gilliland finished the No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet Impala SS, carrying the colors, in 27th at a rained shortened Coca-Cola 600 today at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

    Gilliland, who also qualified 29th, had the “best race car of the year” in the 600 today, running as high as 14th. He was a fixture in the top 20 and moving toward the front. Crew chief, Slugger Labbe, made a call for two tires early to help with track position, but Gilliland did the rest on the track. On lap 180 during a restart Gilliland had transmission problems which dropped him back in the running order, which later manifested itself into a broken second and third gear. The team kept Gilliland out during the last caution, low on fuel, to eventually take 27th position.

    “We had the best car of the year here today,” Gilliland said. “The car could turn really well and it was fun to drive. We were making very small adjustments on the pit stops setting ourselves up for the end of the race. The guys were doing great pit stops and it was looking like a great run for the team. The rain cautions were helping us because we took two tires early and things were falling into place.”

    The team pitted on lap 131 and Gilliland was on a charge and had a small amount of wheel hop under braking which caused him to speed on pit lane, resulting in a drive-thru penalty.

    “That was my mistake. I came in too hot and got some wheel hop in the car and it jumped out of gear. We had ourselves positioned to make up the lap when NASCAR decided to call the race. Ending the race early really was a blessing for us, as I had only high gear left and I would have been a sitting duck on restarts and out of the pits.”

    Kevin Buckler, TRG Motorsports team principal, is happy with the team’s performance today.

    “We showed, once again, that with our limited resources that we can field a very competitive car and run with most of the top teams, which is fantastic,” Buckler said. “We were flat-out better than a lot of big names today. The team did a great job working through the struggles in practice and getting the car right for race day, which is what counts. David was running strong at the beginning and had a lot of confidence in the car. We had the drive-thru penalty, which was a real bummer, but Slugger had us on course to make the lap back. The transmission was going, so we will take our 27th place and go onto Dover. We are still looking for that sponsor partner to help carry this team forward into the future. It is a great group and we showed a little of what the future holds for this team today running so strong.”

    Up next on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule is the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway to be run on Sunday, May 31.

    TRG Motorsports would like to thank associate sponsor Charter Air Transport.

    TRG Motorsports is based in Mooresville, North Carolina. Currently the team fields a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry as well as a Camping World Truck Series effort and an ARCA RE/MAX Series team. The Racer’s Group was founded in 1993 and has been competing at the top level of sports car racing. TRG’s Porsche sports car program is run out of the company’s headquarters in Petaluma, California. The team has the most wins of any team in the Grand-Am Rolex Series with 27, including the 2005 and 2006 Rolex Series GT championship trophy to go along with wins in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (three) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    - TRG Motorsports, Press Release