From the Back to the Front at Las Vegas for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team (February 28, 2009) Las Vegas, Nev. -- The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team was looking to build off of a very strong showing the week...
From the Back to the Front at Las Vegas for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team
(February 28, 2009) Las Vegas, Nev. -- The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team was looking to build off of a very strong showing the week before in California. At first it appeared that everything was heading in the right direction as Lagasse Jr. posted some strong practice times but a moment of panic occurred during qualifying as the No. 11 machine got loose in turn two and sailed into the wall hard. With a lot of work and determination the team rebounded and, in a back-up car, posted their first top-10 finish of the 2009 season.
Las Vegas action is never lacking whether it be at the track or on The Strip. The question on everyone's mind is; Will lady luck be on my side? While some found success at the casino tables, Lagasse Jr. and the America's Incredible Pizza Company found success out on the race track.
Raybestos rookie-of-the-year contender, Lagasse Jr. took his first ever laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a rental car just to get a feel for what the race track was all about before hitting it at 175+ miles per hour in a race car. The comfort level didn't take long as the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota found its way up to 15th in the initial practice session. The proper adjustments were made in between the sessions and Lagasse Jr. bettered his time in the final session. The No. 11 machine posted the 14th quickest time out of 46 cars with a 30.429 second lap, 177.462 mph.
Qualifying for the Sam's Town 300 got underway bright and early Saturday morning as 47 cars tried to make the 43 car starting field. Lagasse Jr. was the 13th car to take to the track. The anticipation for a quick lap time soon turned ominous. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota was heading into turn two when the race car got loose and darted up into the exterior wall. It became immediately apparent that the damagenwas too severe to repair. Chassis #09, the same car from California, was quickly unloaded and work began to get the No. 11 back-up car race ready.
The America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota started in the 42nd position for the start of the Sam's Town 300. Unphased by the qualifying error, Lagasse Jr. maneuvered his way through the field like a veteran avoiding the race high 12 cautions and two red flags in the 200-lap event.
Under the first caution flag of the day on lap six, the No. 11 was displayed in the 29th position. As the laps resumed Lagasse Jr. broke into the top-20 on lap 21 despite radioing in a lack of rear grip.
The lack of rear grip continued to plague the America's Incredible Pizza Company Camry. A total of five pit stops were made throughout the day for changes ranging from new Goodyear tires, fuel, air pressure and track bar adjustments. Pit strategy did play a key roll in track position as crew chief Paul Wolfe called for two tire only stops on laps 30, 101 and then again on lap 165.
By the midway point of the race, the No. 11 Toyota was racing up in the top-10 and showing strong lap times. With each lap, the handling began to improve and Lagasse Jr. became more comfortable with the lines around the mile-and-a-half race track.
The battle for positioning grew more intense as the laps wound down. Lagasse Jr. held strong and placed the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota in the third position with 23 laps remaining. Unfortunately a late race handling issue began to push Lagasse Jr. back in the field. As the last caution flag of the day flew, Wolfe called Lagasse Jr. down pit road for a four fresh tires and a track bar adjustment.
Lagasse Jr. restarted the green/white/checkered race in the ninth position. As the beating and banging occurred around him, Lagasse Jr. held his position and gave the America's Incredible Pizza Company race team their first top-10 finish of the season. The ninth place finish is also a career best NASCAR finish for the rookie driver.
"It ended up being a really good day for us. Obviously there was a mistake in qualifying and Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) must have known it was coming because this is our California primary that wasn't supposed to be here but they swapped it out last minute as a back-up. I guess this is my new favorite car," explained Lagasse Jr. "I have to thank everyone for helping. It's pretty cool to know you can kind of hang it out and give it your all out on the track. These guys never got down about it, they said that's how it goes. They just want me staying on the gas."
-credit: cjm racing