Watkins Glen Offers Career Best For Alex Garcia & Transnet Racing WATKINS GLEN, New York (Tuesday, August 14, 2007) - - After months and months of hard work, NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) rookie Alex Garcia, in just his third race ever, collected a...
Watkins Glen Offers Career Best For Alex Garcia & Transnet Racing
WATKINS GLEN, New York (Tuesday, August 14, 2007) - - After months and months of hard work, NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) rookie Alex Garcia, in just his third race ever, collected a career best finish in last Saturday's Zippo 200 at The Glen.
Garcia's Atlanta, Georgia based Transnet Racing headed into Watkins Glen with unfinished business after the team stormed to life the week before in NASCAR's debut in Montreal, Canada. After starting mid-pack, road racing expert Garcia maneuvered his No. 98 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS into the top-10, only to be sidelined with engine failure while running eighth.
The team entered Watkins Glen International looking to tame the legendary road course with as little interference as possible.
Under the guidance of crew chief Danny Gill, the team headed into practice looking for Garcia to familiarize himself with the course. However, just four laps into the session, the transmission broke, forcing Garcia to bring his machine back to pit road, turning the controls over to his Transnet Racing team to replace it.
Because of the hiccup, Garcia posted the 39th fastest lap with a time of 79.374 seconds at 111.120 MPH. "This wasn't the way we wanted to start our weekend," said Garcia. "We came to Watkins Glen looking for a break. Hopefully we can get all of our problems out of the way early and just focus on the race."
With a new transmission set in the No. 98 Chevrolet, Garcia and company looked to final practice to really see what the team had. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans after roaring her way into New York State, forcing a complete washout of final practice, leaving the teams to prepare for qualifying.
Garcia went out with the first group for Busch pole qualifying and stayed on top of the pole position throughout the first two groups before slipping back in grid. At the conclusion of time trials, the Venezuelan driver turned a lap of 76.202 seconds at 115.745 MPH, picking up over three seconds from practice the day before.
Garcia's lap lined him up 31st on the starting grid alongside fellow road racer Brent Sherman.
"We broke a transmission in the fourth lap of practice so we really didn't get any time to work on the setup. We went out there and did the best we could with what we had," said Garcia, who competed at Watkins Glen International in 1998 driving in Formula 2000.
At the start of the event, Garcia played it smart. When the first caution flag waived on lap three when fellow open wheel ace Max Papis lost an engine, Gill opted to bring his driver to pit road and add Sunoco Racing fuel to the Dixien-OmniSource machine.
Garcia would continue to surge towards the front, but contact from Marcos Ambrose in the No. 59 sent the car around. Running 14th at the time of the incident, he would return to competition a lap down in 36th after pitting for four scuffed tires and fuel.
When the yellow flag flew again for Steven Wallace on lap 37, Garcia explained to his crew that his car was pushing. The Venezuelan driver pitted again for four sticker tires, a slight air pressure adjustment and fuel. Garcia asked his crew for a quick stop, so they could position themselves for the lucky dog award, which would put the team back on the lead circuit.
Garcia exited the pits in the 31st position, restarting the race just one lap before halfway.
Once again, the yellow waived on lap 48 with Garcia planning to pit for the final time of the weekend. The team changed tires while adding fuel, but also added full spring rubbers on both rear springs, hoping to improve the handling on the No. 98. Garcia returned to competition sitting 30th with 32 markers remaining.
On the restart, Garcia would be in a three-way battle with Todd Kluever and David Reutimann for the free pass. When the caution flew on lap 66, Kluever returned to the lead circuit via the lucky dog, thus leaving Reutimann and Garcia to fend for a chance to get back on the lead lap.
The team informed their driver that only three laps remained before the lucky dog would no longer be awarded since the race would then be inside 10 laps to go.
Back to green, Garcia out-powered the Aaron's Dream Machine on lap 69 with a full course caution waiving just a corner later. However, Reutimann believed that he was in front of Garcia at the point of the yellow.The fellow rookie even went to the extreme of beating his fender on Garcia's Chevrolet before NASCAR came to the defense of the Transet Racing team, confirming they were ahead of the No. 99 and the recipient of the free pass, putting them back on the lead lap.
The team opted to make a late pit stop for four scuffed Goodyear tires, emerging 24th on the rundown.
During the final 10 laps, Garcia would dig hard and pick up one position on the last lap when an incident broke out in front of him. The driver took evasive actions and crossed the finish line 23rd, notching a career best finish.
"My feelings after the race are very mixed. We could have been a lot better if we hadn't had the incident with Marcos Ambrose," noted Garcia. "I'm not sure if he made a mistake or if he punted us on purpose, but it took us off the lead lap and really set us back. Fortunately we were able to bounce back and get back on the lead lap, but I can't help but know that our finish would have been much better if we didn't have to fight our way back."
He continued, "I'm very pleased with the progress the team has made. We only had four laps of practice before qualifying due to the problem we had with the transmission, so we spent the whole race working on setup. I know we would have done better if we'd had more practice time, but our guys did a great job fixing the transmission and setting up the car the best we could from the track time we had."
Transnet Racing will announce their next venue in the NASCAR Busch Series in the coming week.