O'QUINN JR.'S IRISH LUCK ENOUGH FOR A SOLID 25TH ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY WEEKEND HAMPTON, GA (March 18, 2006) -- Danny O'Quinn Jr. was hoping to have some Irish luck this weekend in his first ever start at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. With the ...
O'QUINN JR.'S IRISH LUCK ENOUGH FOR A SOLID 25TH ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY WEEKEND
HAMPTON, GA (March 18, 2006) -- Danny O'Quinn Jr. was hoping to have some Irish luck this weekend in his first ever start at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. With the combination of his Irish background, the weekend's St. Patrick's Day holiday and some green on his Ford Fusion, he thought it might do the trick.
Co-primary sponsor Stonebridge Life Insurance Company took their first turn on the hood of the No. 50 Ford Fusion this weekend for the Nicorette 300. O'Quinn Jr. and the No. 50 crew were excited to debut the new paint scheme--one with a bold, neon-red No. 50 on the side of the car that the fans in the stands could not miss.
Cold and cloudy conditions reigned over the Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track that is known for always having rain as a threat. Luckily there was no rain, and the 1.5 mile track was able to host the 43 NASCAR Busch series drivers on schedule.
O'Quinn Jr. had never raced on the high banks of Atlanta before, so the goal for the race was to get laps, learn and make a hard run to the front in the second half of the race.
In qualifying, O'Quinn Jr. ran a lap fast enough to grab the 31st starting position, and get himself solidly in the show.
The race started just after 3:30pm eastern time, and O'Quinn Jr. was on his way to learning the "lay of the land" at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
By lap 10, the caution flag had already flown. O'Quinn Jr. radioed the crew and let them know the car was loose getting into the corners. The crew discussed pitting, but decided to stay out and make adjustments to the car the next time they had a chance to pit.
Many of the lead lap cars did decide to pit, and as a result, O'Quinn Jr. gained some positions. He restarted in the 24th position on lap 15.
Still fighting the handling issues on the car and learning about the racetrack, O'Quinn Jr. went a lap down to the leaders on lap 33.
The caution flag waved over the field again on lap 41 after the No. 5 car of Kyle Busch blew a tire and hit the wall.
O'Quinn Jr. pitted with the lap down cars, and the No. 50 team pulled off a great pit stop, gaining him six positions on pit road. O'Quinn Jr. was the first lap down car off pit road, in perfect position to get the lucky dog award and get back on the lead lap if he were to catch a quick caution.
On lap 49, O'Quinn Jr. restarted his Stonebridge Life Fusion in the 34th position Just 14 laps later, the caution flag flew again for trouble on the No. 64 car of Jamie McMurray. The No. 50 Ford was unable to maintain the position as the first car one lap down, and missed the opportunity to get the lucky dog.
The No. 50 Stonebridge Life Insurance team decided not to pit, and restarted in the 35th position, again as the first car one lap down. O'Quinn Jr. had the position again to get his lap back if there were to be another quick caution, and he and the team were hoping they would have another opportunity.
On lap 83, some luck finally came their way. The caution flag waved again after trouble on the No. 38 car. O'Quinn Jr. got the lucky dog and put his Stonebridge Life Insurance Company Ford Fusion back on the lead lap.
After a pit stop on lap 85 for four fresh tires and a trackbar adjustment, O'Quinn Jr. was back on track to contend with the lead lap cars for position.
It wasn't long after the restart on lap 95 that the caution flag flew again for the No.14 on lap 99. O'Quinn Jr. picked up three positions in those few laps and he pitted on lap 102 to continue to make the car better. A trackbar adjustment and a splash of fuel would do the trick, and he would restart in the 28th position.
After the restart on lap 106, O'Quinn Jr. was running lap times equivalent to those in the top-20 and maintained his 28th position on the racetrack.
An issue with the motor mysteriously cutting off and on around lap 131 caused the No. 50 to go a lap down. O'Quinn Jr. radioed the crew and let them know the engine was inadvertently cutting off in the middle of the corners. Thankfully, by lap 133 it was running continuously again and was back to its flawless condition.
On lap 142, Ryan Newman blew a tire and wrecked hard on the frontstrech against the outside retaining wall. After a lengthy caution to clean the racetrack, O'Quinn Jr. pitted for the final time and made adjustments to loosen the car.
O'Quinn Jr. restarted in the 26th position, and gained another position before the race was over to finish solidly in the top-25 at a racetrack he'd never run before. It was another good clean finish, with O'Quinn, Jr. bringing home the car in one piece. He also learned a lot to help him the next time he visits a similar racetrack.
"We definitely learned a lot today. But I can't say I'm not disappointed with the finish. I don't know what happened, if a wire came loose or something but the motor kept shutting off a couple times," said O'Quinn Jr. after the race. " Maybe [it was] a battery problem, I'm not 100 percent sure, we're going to have to look at it when we get it back to the shop but I think that cost us a lap once.
"We struggled at the beginning of the race but towards the end we gained on 'em, we learned a lot and the crew got better this week," O'Quinn Jr. continued. "When we come back to tracks similar to this one, we'll have a lot of notes to go off of and we'll start off where we ended up here."
The No. 50 team heads to the Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend for the Sharpie Mini 300 with the hometown advantage. It will be a big race for O'Quinn Jr., who was born in Bristol, Tenn., and grew up no more than two hours away in nearby Coeburn, Va.