Emotional Weekend for Gonzalez Jr. at Road America Late-race spin negates top ten finish Nashville, TN ... The NASCAR Nationwide Series made their first ever visit to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Saturday for the Bucyrus 200, and...
Emotional Weekend for Gonzalez Jr. at Road America
Late-race spin negates top ten finish
Nashville, TN ... The NASCAR Nationwide Series made their first ever visit to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Saturday for the Bucyrus 200, and Victor Gonzalez Jr. experienced an emotional weekend both on and off the track.
Gonzalez Jr. became the first Puerto Rican driver to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series when he finished 13th in the NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada last August. Making only his second Nationwide Series start of the 2010 season, Gonzalez Jr. and his State Water Heaters Team had high hopes at the 4.048-mile road course. Road America was the first track in the United States where Gonzalez Jr. raced, and the Puerto Rican driver had competed in both SCCA and Barber Dodge Pro Series races at the Wisconsin course.
After two days of practice and testing at Road America, Gonzalez Jr. qualified the #05 State Water Heaters Chevrolet in 31st with a fast lap of 139.246 seconds / 104.655 mph. However, Gonzalez Jr. felt as though his car would race well and he could advance through the field.
"We started with zero data on this car," Gonzalez Jr. stated. "So, we had to start from scratch working on our setup. We worked on getting the best balance for our car on both short and long runs."
True to form, Gonzalez Jr. quickly began his march to the front and moved into the top twenty early in the race. On lap eight, Antonio Perez blew an engine and Gonzalez Jr. spun in his oil. Then, on a preceding pit stop, Gonzalez Jr. was caught with a speeding penalty and had to restart in the rear of the field. However, great pit strategy by Crew Chief Newt Moore put Gonzalez Jr. back in contention.
Gonzalez Jr. ran as high as third when he stayed out and didn't pit during a mid-race caution. He remained in the top ten as the race neared the final ten laps. Then, the entire race changed for the #05 State Water Heaters Team.
With eight laps remaining, Paul Menard drove into the side of Gonzalez Jr. in turn 5 causing the #05 to spin off the course. Gonzalez Jr. regained control, but dropped back to 19th in the running order. But, the excitement was not over for Gonzalez Jr. quite yet. With three laps to go, Patrick Long spun Gonzalez Jr. in turn 12, dropping the Puerto Rican competitor back to the 25th position. Gonzalez Jr. was able to gain two positions in the final laps to post a hard-earned 23rd-place finish.
"I don't know what (Paul) Menard was thinking," Gonzalez Jr. commented after the race. "He just drove into the side of me and took me out. Then, just as I was regaining momentum, Patrick Long spun me with three to go. Even with the Menard spin, I believe I could have finished 12th or so, but Long took care of that."
"There was no reason for either Menard or Long to take me out," Gonzalez Jr. added. "It was a tough race with lots of beating and hitting. However, through all the adversity, our team did a great job. Newt (Crew Chief Moore) made some great calls and I feel like I really connected with him. We're just a small team, and I really appreciate the opportunity to race with them. Thanks to State Water Heaters for their support too."
As exciting as the Bucyrus 200 was on the track for Gonzalez Jr., it was just as exciting off the course as well. Victor's Dad, Victor Gonzalez Sr., came to Road America to see his son race on Saturday. It was the first time that Gonzalez Sr. saw his son race since 1999.
"It was great to have Dad here this week," Gonzalez Jr. commented. "It was Father's Day weekend, and it was really special to have my best friend (Dad) at the track. I was really disappointed and upset after the race because of all the on-track incidents, but Dad came up to me and gave me a hug and told me that I did a great job. That was really emotional for me."
The final running order will show that Victor Gonzalez Jr. finished 23rd completing all 50 laps. But the emotional highs and lows that Gonzalez Jr. experienced at Road America on Saturday made this a race he'll long remember.
-source: Victor Gonzalez Jr. PR