TALLADEGA, AL(APRIL 24, 2004) -- The ...
TALLADEGA, AL(APRIL 24, 2004) -- The #20 Rockwell Automation / JGR Team headed to Talladega Superspeedway for the second restrictor plate race of the season. With a poor showing at Daytona, Team Rock was ready to show the strength of the JGR restrictor plate program.
Race day brought extremely hot temperatures, but confidence was high as the #20 Rockwell Automation machine was scheduled to start in the 5th position. Bliss was ready for the drafting games, but also had worked out a game plan with Crew Chief Steve Addington.
"We were going to go out there and stay up front as long as we could," ; remarked Bliss before the race. "If we got shuffled out of the draft, we would just drop to the rear and wait for the 'big one' to happen. After seeing how the cars were in practice, it was not a matter of if the 'big one' will happen, but when will it happen. There is just something about this package that can cause the car to jump loose at a moment's notice. And considering the last two Busch Series Races has seen less than 30 laps of green flag racing until 30+ cars are involved in a wreck".
The biggest break of the day happened on lap 2 when the caution flag would wave for the stalled car of Justin Ashburn. Although there were few pit stops, it allowed the field to get stretched out and we saw the competitors driving a lot more conservatively.
Bliss had no problem racing with the leaders but by lap 25 he noticed the engine heating up to around 240 degrees. In effort to cool the engine, Bliss backed out of the lead pack for several laps but as soon as the temperature returned to normal, Bliss powered back into the top five.
Pit stops continued to be solid for the #20 team as they picked up four spots on the first stop and put Bliss back into the top five. He continued there until he was shuffled out again lap 68. At this point, the competition started to heat up and Bliss chose to take a safe spot in the 25th position.
"I have one of the top pit crews in the garage," commented Bliss. "Week after week, we are constantly picking up positions on pit road. I knew the middle of the race was going to be important. We got a tick loose once, so I thought it was better to save the car and get it right for the charge at the end."
As the final pit stop of the day happened under caution on lap 86, Bliss had the fuel and the tires to run to the end. Restarting in the 22nd position, Addington informed him it was time to go to the front. Bliss responded by charging forward. By lap 99, he had worked himself up into the 14 th position when several cars ahead of him started wrecking. As Bliss was braking & waving off the car behind him, he was run into the back by the #33 car of Paul Mernard. The contact from the #33 car sent the #20 car head first into the outside retaining wall. The Rockwell Automation Chevrolet could not be repaired in the closing laps and Bliss would go on to finish 39th , his first DNF of the year.
"I don't know what to say," Bliss said following the race. "We were trying to be patient and take care of our car. I saw those guys bouncing off each other and had my car slowed down to miss it, but we just got run over from behind. I hate it because we had a really good car and we were running a smart race just as we had hoped. Unfortunately, this is the type of result you can expect from this kind (restrictor plate) of racing".