“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car; it’s the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt
After a week off for the July 4th holiday, Sam and the Triple R Racing team took to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) for twin 40 lap features. With the CARS Tour announcing a postponement of their event, everyone knew that the field would be stacked with strong talent. The team had done some testing and worked on a few things to find some speed. Right off the trailer in first practice, they had a fast car. After checking the practice times, Sam was 6th fastest overall. The track was a little slick though and the weather had a lot to do with it. The team decided with one more practice session remaining, they would try a few things and see what happened. A little more speed was discovered!
The time came for qualifying. The order in which the drivers go out for qualifying is set by the first practice session times going from slowest to fastest. Sam went out 6th from the last. Due to a malfunction in the tracks wifi, The team could not see live timing and was unprepared to track the times and positions of the competitors by paper and pen. Sam took to the track and ran a 15.144. It took 10 minutes after qualifying was over until Sam knew his starting position. He would start the first feature from the 9th position. A big factor in track position is which lane you start in. While not thrilled to be starting that far back, Sam was happy to be on the inside.
Sam strapped into his machine on the grid. The team went over their strategy again, did their radio checks, and wished their driver the best of luck. It was time to go racing. As Sam took the five warmup laps and got heat in his tires, He was reminded that this race was only half of what they came for. He needed to drive smart, keep his focus ahead of him, and to have fun. The green flag was in the air. The 10th place car battled Sam hard on the outside refusing to concede and fall in line. Sam had the advantage on the inside and gave no ground to take. Sam was able to get inside of the p8 car and take the position away. Lap 2 brought out the first caution with a two-car incident at the top of turns 3 and 4. His spotter asked how the car felt. “The car feels great. I need more air pressure in my tires, I’m bottoming out a little, but that will come,” Sam replied confidently. Restarting 8th, Sam knew he would be on the outside and have to fight to get inside before getting stuck and lose significant positions. He got a great start and stayed tight on the p6 machine while battling the car to his outside. Running door to door for 3 laps, Sam decided it was better to tuck in behind the 7th place car rather than battle him and burn up his tires. As he dropped back, the 9th place car got a run and closed up the hole for Sam to get down. He fell to 10th before finally finding a hole to get down. The second caution of the night came on lap 13. This was a two-car incident at the top of turns 1 and 2. The cars involved were ahead of Sam at the time of the caution, so he was able to move up to 8th. “Sam, you’re doing great! How is the car and did your air pressure come up enough,” Sam’s crew chief asked over the radio. He replied, “The car is perfect. Air pressure is perfect. Trying to not be too aggressive too early.” Sam restarted on the outside again and was able to keep his position and get in line quickly. It didn’t take long for the field to get strung out. Sam was peeking to the inside of the 7th place car on lap 30 and tried to set him up to make the pass. Seeing the pass coming, the 7th place driver switched up his line a little and took away Sam’s opportunity to advance. When the 40 laps were complete, Sam was in 8th place. The winner of the first feature draws from predetermined numbers and whatever he draws, that’s how many positions will invert. The number 9 was pulled. Sam would be starting the second 40 lap feature from the front row, in second place.
Sam and his car owner took to a nearby hauler to watch the following race and talk strategy. They watched how the second-place car was lining up and how Sam could use this to his advantage seeing as it was the first time he would be starting on the front row in his short Late Model career. The time had come to run the second 40 lap feature for the Late Models and the final event of the night. “I kinda like this, we need to start up here more often,” Sam said to his crew chief. Given the command to fire the engines, the team did their radio checks once more and made sure Sam was calm and ready to go. Doubled up and coming down the backstretch to the green, Sam’s spotter came over the radio, “Sam, we are upfront where we should be. Pull those belts tight, Keep your eyes wide open, and let’s have some fun!” The green flag was in the air. Sam got an amazing start and went in to turn 1 slightly ahead. As the field rolled out of turn 2, sparks and smoke filled the air as Sam’s car was seen grinding against the outside wall. The caution was out and Sam was on his way to the pits. The team feverishly went to work assessing the damage. Sam comes over the radio from inside his car, “Guys, get it drivable and let me go! I refuse to not finish this race!” As the field came down the backstretch to take the green, Sam exited pit road and was getting to full speed. He was at the tail of the field, but still in the race. the green flag was in the air once more. As Sam made his second lap, he came on the radio saying, “I have no brakes. I think the wreck cut the brake line!” Sam rolled to a stop on the backstretch bringing out the caution once more. The team went back to work getting him as close to race-ready as possible. “I said it once and I’ll say it again. I am not giving up! Brakes or no brakes, I’m finishing this race!’ The jack was dropped and Sam made his way back to the track. He had brakes, but he said the pedal was very soft. Only 4 laps were on the board when the green flag was displayed once more with Sam in the 16th position. With significant damage, he did all he could to gain position. Sam stayed on the lead lap until he passed with 5 to go. tucking in behind on the leaders, Sam was able to get around the 15th place car and take the position. When the checkered flag was displayed, Sam was 15th. After some post-race discussion with the drivers who start p1 and p3, the wreck that happened on the initial start was determined to nothing more than a racing incident. All 3 drivers apologized and shook hands before leaving.
Now the team looks to take on a new track as they do a quadruple-header this weekend. They will head to Tri-County Motor Speedway (NC) for twin 45 lap features Friday night, followed by twin 40 lap features at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Story Provided by Zack Wyatt 3 Aces Media