Brandon Whitt and the ...
Brandon Whitt and the #38 Cure Autism Ford F-150 faced adversity throughout the weekend, and was able to overcome enough to finish 20th in Saturday's EasyCare 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bobby Hamilton won the race in a Dodge in a thrilling finish. The race ran an additional three laps to give the series' guaranteed "green, white, checkered" finish.
Whitt had qualified 17th in Friday's pole session with a sizzling lap of 176.224 miles per hour (31.460 seconds around the 1.54-mile speedway). That was just over two-tenths of a second out of the top 10, and followed up a strong qualifying day, including practice.
But the Cure Autism Now Ford had problems under the hood, and an engine change prior to the race relegated the Truck to start at the rear of the field Saturday.
Whitt methodically picked his way through the field, working through a passel of cars that were doing everything except moving out of the way. The less experienced drivers at the rear of the field held him up and, even though moving into the top 25 by the 25th lap, Whitt had lost a lap to leader Bobby Hamilton, who had blazed to the front and was easily the class of the field.
A major wreck coming out of the second turn on the 43rd lap led to an extended caution period, and a red flag. The shutting down of the engines, and the extra fuel necessary to restart, helped Whitt run out of gas on the first yellow flag lap following the red flag. He coasted down pit road out of fuel, then the team worked feverishly to get the car restarted. The engine died as he was leaving pit road. The melee cost him three more laps, and dropped him from running as high as 15th to 29th.
Strong driving and good pit work and adjustments enabled the team to get back one of its laps by the 100-lap mark. The team picked up another lap on the way to the end of the race, ending up just two laps down.
"I'm hoping we used up all of our bad luck over this weekend because it seems like we had a year's worth at Atlanta," Whitt said after the race. "We had a pretty good Truck. The guys worked hard and it was handling well, especially on the long runs. I felt like we had a good enough Truck to finish pretty well (at Atlanta).
"At Daytona we had a good Truck, got caught up in somebody else's accident and we lost a probable top-15 and a good shot at a top-10 finish," he added. "More bad luck this week, and the lost chance of a really good finish. The good thing is we have good stuff on the race track and we're running really well. A little bit of racing luck and this Cure Autism Now Ford could really have some great days.
"And I feel we have some great days ahead of us."