Sam Butler and the Triple R Racing team descended upon Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) for a pair of 40 lap features. Coming off of the wreck that demolished the front end of the car just two weeks prior, Sam felt he had a little something to prove.
Practice began and right off of the trailer, the car was fast! Lap times were in the top 3 for both practice sessions, but Sam said over the team radio that the track felt greasy and worried it would change and not favor them when qualifying time came. Being that he was second fastest in the first practice session, this meant he would go out next to last for qualifying. Not only did this team find some speed, a few other teams did as well. Sam’s qualifying attempt was good enough to start 7th with a time of 15.152. while it wasn’t what he would’ve wanted, he knew this would put him starting on the inside which is always the preferred line at Hickory.
The time came for the cars to line up and take to the grid. As they rolled off, the team, Sam, and his spotter were going through there normal chatter and prepping for the start. Sam came over the radio and mentioned his water temp was a little high so he was turning his radiator fan on. The green flag was in the air and we were racing. Lap 4, Sam came over the radio and said the water temperature was upwards of 220 when the crew chief came on and said he was losing water. Sam brought his machine to a stop on the backstretch and turned the ignition off. This would bring out the caution allow the engine to begin to cool and have the wrecker push him to pit road. In the process, the tow truck breaks down. This played out highly in the team’s favor as it allowed more time to assess any problems and make adjustments. The initial assessment was a bad gauge after Sam’s in-car readings didn’t quite match up with what the team was seeing with a temperature gun directly on the motor. The tow truck was on pit road and the team knew they had to make a call. The crew chief and team owner agreed to send Sam back out and trust their guts on the call. Under caution, Sam lost no laps but would restart at the tail of the field in 15th. Keeping his composure through all of this, his spotter goes to work telling him how he can work through the traffic and salvage the rocky start. The green flag was in the air and Sam wasted no time. Before the field came around to complete the first lap back under competition, Sam was up to 13th and charging hard! Lap 10, he would overtake another two positions in just one laps time. The caution would come out on lap 11, and this gave the team a chance to check in on the water temperature. The team asked how the car was running and Sam came over the radio and said, “Water temp is 220, I’ve got the fans on. This car is beyond fast!” The track was clear and the cars lined up double file to go back racing. With 30 laps to go and a fast car, Sam knew he would have plenty of time to work his way forward. Just one lap after taking the green, lap 11 found that Sam had improved by one position. Lap 12 would provide another opportunity to pass for 9th. Sam’s spotter came over the radio and said he was driving perfect and to keep on setting them up and knocking them down. Sam passed another competitor on laps 18 and 19, regaining all of the positions he had lost due to the unscheduled pit stop. Driving patiently and hitting his marks, Sam charged harder to the front. Laps 22 and 24 would provide the passing opportunities Sam was looking for. Running in the 5th position, Sam easily claimed the 4th spot on lap 29 and followed that up with grabbing 3rd on lap 30. The second-place car gave Sam a fight for the position and would take away any opportunity Sam thought he had to make the pass. That would all come to an end on lap 37 as Sam made the pass and made it stick! He overtook second place and had a lock on the leader. Sam was bound and determined to catch him and redeem himself of the earlier hiccup and the previous week’s incident. With two laps to go though, the engine dropped a cylinder and forced Sam to pit road. In his post-race interview, a comment was made that this race will be something disappointing but always remembered. Sam quickly replied by saying, “I wouldn’t say its disappointing, I would say we made a statement! We got after it. Our team has done an excellent job these past few weeks. You have your unlucky moments in racing, we’ve just had a few too many.”
The team began to feverishly assess the problems and see if there would be any way to make it out for the second feature. An attempt to start the second race was made, but the engine would not fire and Sam would be credited with his second DNF for the night. He still received points for both races seeing that an attempt to start the second race was made.
With the consistent improvements that Sam and the Triple R Racing team have made, their efforts aren’t going unnoticed and competitors are seeing that the 81 car will be one to keep an eye out for. Next, the team has plans to potentially run some other tracks as well as look into competing in the CARS Tour events that will be held at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Story Provided by Zack Wyatt 3 Aces Media