Stremme Brings the Star Trek Dodge Home in the 24th Spot at Darlington DARLINGTON, S.C. (May, 9, 2009) --The No.12 Penske Racing Star Trek Dodge team and driver David Stremme knew going into Saturday night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway...
Stremme Brings the Star Trek Dodge Home in the 24th Spot at Darlington
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May, 9, 2009) --The No.12 Penske Racing Star Trek Dodge team and driver David Stremme knew going into Saturday night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway that they would have to manage both their equipment and the track to have a solid finish. Stremme had a solid run going until a late-race brush with the wall relegated him a 24th-place finish at the track "too tough to tame."
Stremme started the 367-lap event from the 34th spot, but he knew he had a solid running Dodge Charger and was determined to get his machine up front. For the first 50 laps, Stremme struggled with an extremely tight-handling race car. He radioed to his team to explain the car was tight from the center through the exit of the corners and he was having a hard time keeping it pinned to the bottom of the track. Stremme had a couple early encounters with the wall and received the famous "Darlington stripe."
When the caution flag was displayed to the field on lap 74, Stremme prepared to bring his Star Trek Dodge down the pit lane. He dove onto pit road on lap 82 for service. The No. 12 team changed four tires and filled the car with racing fuel. The crew also made both a wedge and trackbar adjustment hoping to free up the car's handling. The team had a lightning quick stop and picked up four positions on pit road.
Returning to green-flag racing on lap 85, Stremme found himself in the 24th position. He radioed to crew chief Roy McCauley three laps later to report the changes helped, but he still wanted to free the car's handling more. McCauley communicated back to his driver they would make more adjustments on the next round of pit stops.
For the next 100 laps, Stremme fought to stay inside the top-20. He could carry a lot of momentum into turn 1 but had to really slow his car getting into turn three. Stremme searched the different lines on the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval, trying to find a line which would better suit his car.
By the halfway point of the race, Stremme found himself in the 27th spot, one lap down to the leaders. The 31-year-old driver hoped for a caution flag to help get him back on the lead lap. Stremme was running times as quick as the leaders and commented to his team the car was starting to really come to him. The caution flag was displayed to the field on lap 222 for an incident on the backstretch, which allowed Stremme to rejoin the lead lap cars.
The team took advantage of the caution period to come in for service. Stremme rolled into his pit stall on lap 224. The team changed four tires, filled the car with fuel and made a slight air pressure adjustment to the machine. The pit crew again did a great job getting Stremme back out on to the racing surface, picking up valuable track position.
For the next 70 laps, Stremme made strategic passes on his competitors. He knew he had a strong car and needed to continue to make forward progress. With less than 50 laps left, the South Bend, Ind. native had his car positioned in the top-12. He was still fighting a tight-handling car, but it did not seem to hinder him for running down the leaders.
With 15 laps remaining in the event, Stremme was in a heated clash with Matt Kenseth when he damaged the right side of his Star Trek Dodge. The contact with the wall caused a severe tire rub. Stremme, knowing he could not afford for a tire to go down, brought his car to pit road under the green flag. The team changed two right side tires and repaired the damage. Stremme rolled back out on to the track, but was one lap down to the leaders. Stremme fought to the finish and came home in 24th place.
"It was a tough night," commented Stremme after the event. "We had a good race car early in the race, until we got used up there in the end and put into the fence. We had to pit under green and fell back to finish 24th. The Penske Racing Dodge guys did a good job getting the backup car ready to race; it just wasn't the finish that we deserved."
The No. 12 Dodge team now sits 27th in the Cup Series driver point standings after 11 of 36 races.
The team will move on to Lowe's Motor Speedway next weekend for the NASCAR All-Star event.