Engine woes halt Greg Schaefer's Lime Rock Park race. LIME ROCK, CT - Greg Schaefer, of Hatboro, Pennsylvania, put all the pieces together to have a good run in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Season season finale at the Lime...
Engine woes halt Greg Schaefer's Lime Rock Park race.
LIME ROCK, CT - Greg Schaefer, of Hatboro, Pennsylvania, put all the pieces together to have a good run in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Season season finale at the Lime Rock Park road course. He had a fast car, a capable crew and a daring pit strategy. Things were looking good for him as that strategy appeared to be playing out, but engine failure forced him to retire from the race after completing 33 of 82 laps. He was credited with a 31st place finish.
Schaefer, who finished fifth in this race last year, looked to be well on his way to having just as good a run this time around, especially after he posted the fifth fastest time in Friday's second practice session. He couldn't back that time up in qualifying, though, and he took the twentieth starting position.
"We picked up a big push in the first and second turn," he said. "The car hadn't pushed all day, but when we went out to qualify on stickers it didn't like it, it pushed really bad. We ran our fastest lap in practice on scuffs, so I don't know if that's the way we should have gone or not. I might have overheated the rear tires and didn't get enough heat in the front tires. I came down for the first lap and it just pushed really bad, and it didn't get any better the next two. We were trying some different shocks in practice and the shocks we qualified on will probably be good race shocks, and we probably should have qualified on the other set, it probably would have put up a good lap.
"I've got a good car for the race, we should be good for moving up through the pack," Schaefer continued. "I'm going to have to play some pit strategy too. We've been talking about it and we're probably going to pit early and take on just fuel. Everything's been good, the car's been pretty decent all weekend until we went out to qualify. I just hope that the set of tires, now that we got a heat cycle in it, they'll be all right. If it pushes like that during the race, it's going to be a long day. We're not planning on a tire stop, but it is an option."
While it's typical for drivers to pit relatively early for their fuel stop in this race, Schaefer went them one better, pitting under the first caution to top off the fuel tank. He pitted when he thought the one-to-go sign was given, but the caution was extended one more lap and he came in one more time to top off the tank on lap nine. This left him to pick his way through the field and pass those who elected to pit later in the race.
"We needed a lot of cautions for that strategy to work," he explained. "We pitted on lap eight and then they extended the caution for another lap so we came in and topped off again. We figured we needed another twelve or thirteen caution laps and we could have gone the distance. The plan was working out awesome for us, they had the cautions we needed."
The strategy worked, he was up to fifth place 25 laps into the race. He was sixth on a lap 31 restart, but just two laps later, he coasted into the pits. Smoke was coming from the engine and oil was spotted in the exhaust pipes, and that was a sign that his race was over.
"We blew the motor up," he said. "It was running really, really good. I think we had a third place car. We were fifth or sixth, following some pretty fast cars, and the car was pretty awesome. It just came apart coming up the hill, and that was it. We were in the right spot, but the engine let us down.
"The guys did an awesome job, and we had Ronnie and Kevin from Martin Truex Jr.'s crew helping us out, and they helped out a lot and got us going pretty good," Schaefer continued. "It's just a shame to end the season this way. We wanted to get a good finish to try and attract a sponsor for next year, so we'll keep our fingers that we'll be back for next season."