Pit tweaks brighten day for Kahne in rain-shortened race
Mar 29, 2012
We brought a little red to an ordinarily blue state this week. I’m referring to our conservative approach to Sunday’s race in Fontana, Calif. It’s been a rough start to the season for the No. 5 team, but we brought home a top-15 finish to brighten a rain-shortened day.
From the pits, we made a lot of adjustments. Kasey (Kahne)’s Quaker State Chevy was “loose in,” causing the back of the car to swing out, so we lowered track bar and left side wedge during the first two stops. This made the car more drivable but not quite to Kasey’s liking. Next, we inserted a spring rubber in the right rear to add more tension to the spring and made tire pressure changes that helped Kasey turn the same lap times as the leader. With the car dialed in, it was time to start making our way back to the front from the 12th position. Mother Nature decided she had an adjustment of her own with the rain. With only 15 cars on the lead lap, crew chief Kenny Francis made the call over the radio for Kasey to pit if the lead cars stayed. Only two or three cars came to pit road so we decided to pit and take our chances that the rain was going to stop. This is a gamble you take when racing against Mother Nature.
A lot of folks will say we should have stayed out because the rain wasn’t going to stop. But even the best meteorologists are making an educated guess each day. I’ve ridden my motorcycle to work with a 0% chance of rain and found myself in a “frog strangler.” I’ve driven my truck with an 80% chance of rain and could’ve gotten a great tan from all the sunshine that day. The bottom line is we gambled three spots so we could fight for a win on fresh tires if the rain stopped. Yes, I know: “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.”
On to the “paper clip” of Martinsville, Virginia, where short track racing and grassroots dance hand-in-hand. This is an “old school” track that is very exciting from our standpoint. We have pit stalls that are in the corners and the smallest pit boxes of any pit road we visit on the circuit. This usually makes for tight quarters with 3500-pound race cars buzzing very close to your back side. It’s time to get serious about your New Year’s resolution diet if I want to keep that back side.