TIRE PROBLEMS FOIL BAM RACING'S SHOT AT THE DAYTONA 500 Ken Schrader misses season-opener for the first time in 23 years DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Gatorade Duel 150's are typically two of the most exciting races at Daytona. These races ...
TIRE PROBLEMS FOIL BAM RACING'S SHOT AT THE DAYTONA 500
Ken Schrader misses season-opener for the first time in 23 years
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Gatorade Duel 150's are typically two of the most exciting races at Daytona. These races determine the starting line-up for the Daytona 500 at the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway. The BAM Racing team realized they had to finish among the top 2 of the 9 non-guaranteed cars in the second Duel in order to make the 500. Starting 22nd, Ken Schrader consistently placed the HealthLife.com Dodge Charger in the right position to move as high as 8th place on lap 35. Unfortunately a badly worn right front tire relegated the team to an 18th finishing position -- out of the Daytona 500.
At the BAM transporter for the pre-race team meeting, crew chief David Hyder stressed the importance of the day's race, "Our Daytona 500 is today! All we can do is the best we can do; we've been as thorough as possible -- no mistakes." Team owner Beth Ann Morgenthau summed it up by saying, "We just need to go to the front. That's all."
During the parade laps, driver Ken Schrader echoed the theme for the day, "Alright guys, we got a beautiful little piece here. Let's do what we can to get it in the top 2."
The starting field for Daytona is determined unlike any other event. With NASCAR's points system assuring 35 cars a spot in the Daytona 500, and with 4 additional cars making the field by their qualifying speed or by using a past champion's provisional, there were only 2 spots up for grabs in each race. This meant that in Duel #2, 19 locked-in cars were starting just to race, but the remaining 7 cars were desperately racing just to start.
David Reutimann got off to a rocky start when he jumped the initial green flag and was black flagged by NASCAR. Schrader kept pace early and let his tires build up pressure to see exactly what he had to work with. Primarily staying in the top groove, Schrader progressed steadily through the field. By lap 14 he had worked his way up to 15th which was critical, because on the following lap Jacques Villeneuve, running 16th lost control of his car and took out the next 3 cars in a crash exiting turn 4.
When Schrader came into the pits on lap 20 for four tires and fuel, he was extremely pleased with the way the HealthLife.com Dodge was handling, pleading, "Don't change nothing!" Before restarting 13th on lap 22, Schrader shared his thought process with the crew, "Can't make up my mind on the inside lane. Lots of times on the restart it starts going, but I'm going to stay committed to the outside."
When Dave Blaney blew the engine in his Toyota on lap 25, Hyder coached, "Save as much fuel as you can under this caution, buddy. We're going to stretch it to the end." By lap 35, Schrader had the BAM Racing Dodge in 8th place in a tight draft with fellow Dodge driver Patrick Carpentier in 7th; both drivers were in position to make the 500.
BAM Racing's luck ran out on lap 53 when Schrader reported a vibration. A lap later he confirmed, "We got a tire." As he faded toward the back of the lead draft Schrader reasoned, "Can't go nowhere but I'll wait in case they wreck." Oddly enough, Carpentier blew his right front on lap 57 bringing out the race's third and final caution.
Schrader's second pit stop came on lap 59 for four tires, one can of fuel and an air pressure adjustment. As he had reported, the right front tire was missing large pieces of tread. The race restarted on lap 62 for a green, white, checkered finish. In the frantic last two laps Schrader was unable to gain much ground and ended the race in 18th position; the first time in 23 years that Schrader would not be in the Daytona 500.