Key Motorsports' Top-15 Streak Ends With DNF at Iowa Speedway A promising weekend at Iowa Speedway ended too soon for Aric Almirola when a blown tire and subsequent wreck heavily damaged the No. 40 Westerman Companies Chevrolet in the inaugural...
Key Motorsports' Top-15 Streak Ends With DNF at Iowa Speedway
A promising weekend at Iowa Speedway ended too soon for Aric Almirola when a blown tire and subsequent wreck heavily damaged the No. 40 Westerman Companies Chevrolet in the inaugural U.S. Cellular 250. Forced to retire after only 74 laps, the Key Motorsports team was relegated to a 34th place finish, dropping one spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner point standings.
Although a NASCAR Nationwide Series car had never made a lap at Iowa Speedway prior to the first practice for Saturday's inaugural U.S. Cellular 250, Aric Almirola's short track expertise made the No. 40 Chevrolet fast from the start, running second fastest in Thursday's six-hour opening practice session.
Returning to the track on Friday, the Key Motorsports team was confident and ready to hone in on the setup of the #050 chassis, but experienced a tremendous setback in the weekend's second practice. When an oil line on Mike Harmon's No. 07 came loose, Almirola couldn't avoid the oil spilling onto the track, which sent the No. 40 sliding into the turn one wall. With their primary car substantially damaged, the No. 40 team was forced to unload their backup vehicle.
Working feverishly, the Key Motorsports crew was able to prepare the backup in time for Happy Hour, and Almirola ended the final practice session with the Westerman Companies Chevy 20th fastest on the speed charts. Laying down a 23.677-second qualifying lap the following afternoon, Almirola earned the No. 40 a 28th place starting position.
From the drop of the green flag Almirola was on the move, improving six positions in the opening ten laps. Surviving a flurry of early cautions, Almirola and his crew maintained a top-25 position for the next 60 laps. On lap 74 Almirola was encroaching on the top-20 when the No. 40's right front tire blew out, sending the Westerman Companies machine hard into the turn three wall.
Despite serious damage to the right side of the car, Almirola was able to drive the No. 40 into the NNS garage, but the right front wheel was locked up and the body of the car was severely misaligned. The Key Motorsports crew investigated the damage to determine if it was repairable, but quickly concluded that their day was over, forcing them to settle for a 34th place finish. Crew chief Gary Showalter later ascertained that the car's right front shock had become loose, damaging the Goodyear tire and eventually causing it to fail.
Curtis Key's No. 40 lost a position in the NNS owner standings after the team's DNF at Iowa Speedway, now sitting 23rd in the points. The Key Motorsports Chevrolet remains 264 points ahead of 30th place.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series goes road course racing this Saturday at Watkins Glen International. Twenty-year-old Jeffery Earnhardt will make his NNS debut behind the wheel of the No. 40 in this weekend's Zippo 200.