Sorenson Ties Time for Pole Position and Brings Home Second-Place Finish at Gateway Madison, Ill. (July 20, 2009) -- The Dollar General team had an exciting weekend at Gateway International Raceway with Reed Sorenson behind the wheel of the No....
Sorenson Ties Time for Pole Position and Brings Home Second-Place Finish at Gateway
Madison, Ill. (July 20, 2009) -- The Dollar General team had an exciting weekend at Gateway International Raceway with Reed Sorenson behind the wheel of the No. 32 Toyota Camry. In the closing laps of final practice on Friday night, Sorenson soared to the top of the charts. He confidently qualified the Dollar General Toyota on Saturday evening and recorded a lap that was later tied by pole-sitter Brad Keselowski. Starting from the second position, excellent pit strategy and hard driving by Sorenson earned the No. 32 Dollar General team a second-place finish, their season-best and fifth top-five for 2009.
Saturday evening's qualifying session required a refresher course of the NASCAR rule book. Sorenson recorded a fast lap of 33.158-seconds according to NASCAR's timing and scoring system, setting a new track record. Just when it seemed that the No. 32 team would claim their first pole position of the season, Keselowski recorded a lap in the exact same time. Despite television's initial report that Sorenson had maintained the pole, NASCAR's official time showed the tie. In accordance to the NASCAR rule book, Keselowski was awarded the pole position because the No. 88 is higher in owner's points (fourth, 2597 points) than the No. 32 (10th, 2337 points). Because Keselowski was the official pole sitter, he was also declared the new track record holder. Disappointed, Sorenson started from the outside pole, but was confident as he had started second for each of his two previous wins at the 1.25-mile track.
As the green flag dropped for the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 presented by Ventrilo, it was evident that this would be a very exciting race as Kevin Harvick immediately jumped up with Sorenson and Keselowski to run three-wide in the opening lap. In the first four laps of the race, the front of the pack was racing as hard as if it were the final lap. Sorenson slipped back to the sixth position and as the lead cars settled into a single-file line, he began to pick his way back to the front, one position at a time. By lap 17, he had climbed to the fourth spot. Remaining quiet on the radio, it was not until lap 30 that he reported on the car's handling.
"The car is a bit free all around," said Sorenson. "It could definitely use a little more rear grip. Coming off of turn two, it is just a little bit tight -- but only in the exit of two. The back end is loose everywhere but there."
The race remained under green-flag conditions as teams began to make their first round of pit stops. On lap 62, Sorenson brought the Camry to pit road where the Dollar General crew effortlessly serviced the No. 32 with four fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. As the pit stops cycled through, he returned to the fourth position.
The first caution of the night came at lap 67 when the No. 87 made contact with the outside wall. Sorenson remained on the track and reported to crew chief, Trent Owens, on the race so far and the car's handling following the first pit stop.
"We're still a little free," said Sorenson. "Wow! I haven't had to deal with that much traffic in a long time. We were pretty good towards the end of the run. We've had to run side-by-side with someone in every corner so I think that is causing some of the loose handling. Also, the tires seem to lose grip faster than they did last night in practice."
The race restarted on lap 73 with the No. 32 Camry in the fourth spot. The next caution came only one lap later, when the No. 09 bounced off the wall and made contact with the No. 99. Sorenson came over the radio to report that he had been hit hard in the left rear. Owens inspected the car from the top of the pit box and Carl Edwards pulled alongside of the No. 32 to look as well. Both reported that the tire looked ok and that the fender did not appear to be bent in enough to rub the tire. The race restarted on lap 79 with the Dollar General Toyota in the third position.
Sorenson immediately reported that the Camry's handling was way too loose, but continued to drive hard, holding strong to the fourth position after the No. 60 made the pass for third. When the night's third caution came when the No. 66 and No. 11 made contact, Owens told Sorenson to only come to pit road if the leaders did so that the team could remain on the same fuel strategy. The front-running cars remained on the track and restarted the race on lap 89.
Running side-by-side with the No. 12, Sorenson fought hard to hold the fourth position. He was very grateful for the caution on lap 93. He reported that the No. 32 was very loose, especially when a car would drive in under him. On lap 94, he brought the Dollar General Toyota to pit road for service and adjustments. The team quickly changed two tires, added fuel and made a track bar adjustment. Because some cars chose not to pit, the No. 32 lined up in the sixth position for the restart.
Shortly after the race resumed, three-wide racing resulted in contact between the No. 11 and the No. 62. Sorenson was caught up in the melee, as the No. 11 made hard contact with the right front of the No. 32 Camry. He reported that the wheel felt fine but asked his spotter, Matt Masencup, to check out the extent of the damage. Masencup reported fender damage but nothing that appeared to be able to cut down the tire. Jason Keller also examined the damage from the driver's seat of the No. 27 and reported that the tire looked to be safe. Restarting in the fifth position on lap 105, Sorenson drove with some caution.
When the yellow flag came out on lap 121, Owens called his driver to pit road for service. The Dollar General crew jumped off the wall, changing four tires, adding fuel and carefully fixing the right front fender. The lengthy pit stop relegated Sorenson back to the 14th position for the restart on lap 129.
The fresh tires and repaired fender were exactly what Sorenson needed to soar to the front. In only one lap, he moved into the top-10. On lap 151, he moved past the No. 6 for the sixth position. Only 14 laps later he caught and passed the No. 88 for the fifth spot. Because of the earlier pit stop when some of the leaders remained on the track, the No. 32 had a later fuel window. This proved very beneficial as they came to pit road for fuel and Sorenson moved into the third spot. Luck continued to side with the team as the caution came out at lap 176 for debris on the racetrack. Owens called Sorenson to pit road for two tires and instructed his crew to only add three seconds of fuel in order to keep the nose weight of the car.
The race restarted for the final time on lap 181. Sorenson took off from the second position and on the outside row because of the double-file restart formation. As the final 19 laps counted down, Sorenson did everything he could to catch the No. 18, often running faster lap times. The initial lead that Kyle Busch grabbed on the restart proved to be unstoppable. Sorenson took the checkered flag in the second position.
"Tonight's race was really good," said Sorenson. "I had a lot of fun. The only major problem we had was when the No. 11 made contact with our car and we had to come in and fix the fender. The double-file restarts certainly brought some excitement to it and we made it three-wide a couple times which is a little bit different here at Gateway because once you get in a straight line, you can usually pull away. Double-file restarts made it fun, actually. I would have loved to have had the win, but it was still a good night. The No. 32 Dollar General guys were great to work with and it was a lot of fun racing with the team. They put together a great car. I haven't raced in the Nationwide Series in a year and I'm glad that I came and had a good time."
David Reutimann will make his debut in the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota next weekend at O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP). Reutimann has run select races this season in Braun Racing's No. 10 Camry. Because Reutimann will run at ORP and with the Sprint Cup Series at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Brian Ickler will be on hand to practice the No. 32 Camry.
Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to O'Reilly Raceway Park next weekend for the Kroger 200. The Saturday night race will be broadcast LIVE on ESPN and on MRN Radio starting at 7:30 p.m. EST. The green flag is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST.