Kansas Post Race Blog
Posted on: October 7, 2013
Track activity started on Thursday afternoon this week with testing at Kansas Speedway. Goodyear brought a new tire for Kansas, so NASCAR gave all of the Sprint Cup teams the opportunity to test for a few hours on Thursday. Once the rain got out of the way we were able to hit the track. Anytime I can get more track time in the car, it’s a huge bonus. It was nice to be able just to focus on one car and spend time with the Phoenix Racing guys.
On Friday morning, I had the Sprint Cup Series rookie meeting. They usually last about 10 minutes, and NASCAR has a veteran Cup driver come into the hauler and give us advice. It’s also an opportunity for us ask questions. After the meeting, I headed over to the Phoenix Racing hauler to talk to my crew chief Nick Harrison about our plan for practice. Practice went well for it only being my second weekend in the Cup car. After the first Cup practice, I headed over to the Nationwide garage for both Nationwide practice sessions. We had a really good BRANDT Camaro this weekend on the Nationwide side.
After my Nationwide obligations, it was time for Cup qualifying. While the crew waited with the car on pit road, I went back to the hauler to watch qualifying on TV with Nick. He was giving me advice as we were watching the cars qualify. We walked out to pit road and I hopped in the BRANDT SS to qualify. We ended up with the 21st starting spot, which is very respectable considering it’s only my second time qualifying the Cup car.
After track activity on Friday, I went to a BRANDT reception at a local hotel. BRANDT had about 100 people at Kansas Speedway for both races. It’s always fun to hang out with the guests they bring to the track. Everyone is so nice, and they are like family. Many of them make it to several races per season, so I’ve gotten to know them really well. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad in Kansas on Friday night, so bad that I had to pull off of the road for a few minutes and take cover in a Starbucks because of funnel clouds. Luckily, the weather passed and everyone was okay.
On Saturday, I had two Cup practice sessions before the Nationwide race. It’s nice that there’s Cup practice after qualifying because it gives me the opportunity to solely focus on race trim. Again, both sessions went really and we just focused on making changes and logging laps. After both of those sessions, I was done on the Cup side for the day and immediately went to driver introductions for the Nationwide race. After the Nationwide race, I had relaxing evening with my parents. My mom had some friends in town so they went with us to dinner.
On Sunday, I woke up and went to the Phoenix Racing hauler for a meeting with Nick. After the meeting I had a few pre-race obligations to fulfill. First up was a live hit with a local television station, then I went to the tweet-up out in front of the track. For those who may not know, a tweet-up is just a casual gathering of fans from Twitter that meet at the track to discuss racing, etc. I was able to spend about 20 minutes discussing racing, my family and just hanging out with the fans. After the tweet-up, I went directly to the Chevy Stage for a Q & A session. After the Q & A, I went back into the garage area and went to the driver/crew chief meeting and chapel. After chapel it was time to eat, get in my firesuit and head out to driver introductions.
As we were making pace laps before the green flag, Nick came over the radio and was a little emotional. He thanked everyone on the team for all of their hard work over years. Kansas was Nick’s last race with Phoenix Racing. He has been with Phoenix for several years, and he’s moving to another team. I’m happy for him. He has a great opportunity and I think he will do really well.
Once the race started, I just focused on racing the racetrack. It’s more important for me to focus on being consistent on the track, instead of trying to set the world on fire. I was fighting a tight condition throughout the race, but Nick and guys were making changes to help improve the car. A little over 20 laps after we completed our third pit stop on lap 113, we were running in the 20th spot and the BRANDT SS just snapped to the right and went into the wall. Unfortunately, it was a hard hit and the car was towed back to the garage and I made the standard trip to the infield care center. Fortunately, with all of the safety devices that NASCAR has mandated, I was fine. I feel bad for Ryan Newman. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught up in the accident.
At the end of the day, we were having a good race for the Phoenix Racing team. I’m bummed that Nick’s last race ended in a wreck, and we didn’t have the opportunity to complete all of the laps. After looking at a replay, it looks like I may have hit a seam in the track wrong. The next race for me in the BRANDT SS will be at Talladega Superspeedway. I’m hoping we will have a better result there for Phoenix Racing and BRANDT. Until next time…Justin.