Patrick Sheltra Learns In NASCAR Debut At Atlanta; "Motor Failure Ceases Credible Run For Andy Belmont Racing Team"
HAMPTON, Georgia (October 29, 2007) - - NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) rookie Patrick Sheltra's primary goal heading into last Saturday's EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 was to log laps and learn. And as far as the Andy Belmont Racing (ABR) team is concerned, the 21-year old rising star earned an A plus. The only hardship the ABR team faced during the weekend was the expiration of the team's motor forty laps from the finish.
[IMAGE]With Sheltra completing all three practice sessions comfortably and quietly on Friday, the team headed back to the 1.5-mile speed plant on Saturday morning looking to back up Friday's effort and lock the duo into their first NASCAR start of the season and the first for Sheltra's career.
Sheltra seemed at ease before Bud pole qualifying, chatting with drivers Brian Scott, Joey Clanton and Brendan Gaughan before climbing his No. 12 Racegear.com Chevrolet for his first NASCAR qualification session.
Advice and comfort from car owner and crew chief Andy Belmont before taking his two lap hustle around Atlanta Motor Speedway had Sheltra pumped up and ready to put the pedal to the medal. During his time trials effort, the Indiantown, Florida native posted a fast lap of 33.560 seconds at 165.197 MPH lining him up 35th on the starting grid.
"We didn't lose anything from yesterday and that's a good thing," noted Sheltra after qualifying. "It's a long race and there's a lot to learn. We're planning on staying out of trouble and bring home a satisfying finish that everyone can feel confident about."
At the start of the 130-lap race, Sheltra quickly feel into battle with the No. 7 of Jason White. The duo put on a fierce battle exchanging positions for the first 25 circuits.
While racing in their own group, leader Kyle Bush was racing in a different time zone and quickly began to lap the field which included the group that Sheltra was racing in. With advisement from spotter Jason Jarrett, Sheltra ceased and gave Busch plenty of room and quickly ducked in behind the No. 51 Chevrolet hoping to learn a little from the NASCAR Nextel Cup superstar.
NASCAR waived a competition caution on lap 30 allowing the teams to make their first series of adjustments. Sheltra informed Belmont that he was fighting a tight condition in the center but also experiencing a loose condition off. Belmont, a veteran ARCA RE/MAX Series owner advised his rookie that he would make a chassis adjustment in addition to a new set of Goodyear rubber during his first trip to pit road. Coming down pit road, Sheltra accidentally miscued and overshot his pit. Quickly backing up, the team began to perform work but NASCAR quickly pointed out to the team that they were pitting outside the box, Sheltra quickly threw the truck in gear with the intent to come back down pit road the next time by not knowing the tire changer had unscrewed the lug nuts on the right rear tire. As Sheltra exited pit road, the tire came off forcing Sheltra to coast around to pit road with the team putting on four new Goodyear tires and adding Sunoco Racing fuel before sending Sheltra back into battle.
On the restart, Sheltra quickly picked up the pace with Belmont reporting to his driver that his lap times had improved by one second. During the run though, the full-time ARCA competition advised his team that the truck was still not handling appropriately in the center of the corner.
The caution flag waived on lap 44 for a three-truck incident on the front stretch providing an opportunity for the team to bring their truck to pit road for a chassis adjustment and to top off the fuel.
Holding down the 31st position on the restart, Sheltra continued to gain laps and learn the unique characteristics of not only Atlanta Motor Speedway but the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as well. In a battle with three other trucks approaching lap 90 on the track, Sheltra quickly radioed to his team that he was losing power.
Belmont acknowledged and asked Sheltra to bring the truck down pit road for a look. As the team surveyed under the hood they could hear that one of the value springs had broken causing the engine to be considerably underpowered. Instead of taking a chance of blowing the motor entirely, Belmont and the team called it a day and headed to the garage.
Sheltra would be credited with a 32nd place finish.
"I just want to thank Andy and Jennifer Belmont and our sponsors for the opportunity to race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend," said Sheltra. "We were making some great progress on the track with our Racegear.com Chevrolet but the motor gave up on us. It's a shame, because everyone wanted to finish the race. Unfortunately, we were plagued by some bad luck."
Sheltra added, "I learned a heck of a lot out there this weekend. The trucks are completely different from an ARCA car. We plan to compete in a limited schedule next season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, so Atlanta was a great way for me to get my feet wet. Everyone was really nice and talking with the other drivers made me feel very relaxed. We'll be better the next time, I guarantee it.
Car Owner Andy Belmont sounded, "I'm very proud of Patrick's efforts this weekend. We worked and made the truck better throughout the weekend and sadly we had a problem with the motor which kept us from taking the checkered flag. It was a real privilege to have Patrick drive our truck. His feedback was great and the determination that he showed this weekend only backs up my prior views on him from the ARCA side. I'm hoping to work with him more in the future, he is the real deal."