John Salemi Makes Up For Elko Disappointment With Iowa Success Newton, Iowa (May 20, 2007) - Posting a career-best qualifying effort at Iowa Speedway and following it up with a twelfth place finish in Sunday's race was a great way for John...
John Salemi Makes Up For Elko Disappointment With Iowa Success
Newton, Iowa (May 20, 2007) - Posting a career-best qualifying effort at Iowa Speedway and following it up with a twelfth place finish in Sunday's race was a great way for John Salemi to wrap up a racing weekend that started out not so well as he barely missed making the starting field for the Friday night race at Elko Speedway.
The two-track, two-race midwest swing for the NASCAR Grand National East and West Series began at Elko, a 3/8ths mile short track. Salemi's No. 63 Milwaukee Tools/Express Signs/Daddy's Hot Sauce Chevrolet was one of 46 cars trying for a spot in a race that started 30 cars. Had the race been a regular Busch East race with 26 cars taken from time and four provisionals, Salemi would have been in. But since this was a combination race where there were six provisionals, Salemi's 26th-best qualifying run was just .040 seconds short of getting in the field. His family-owned team was not eligible for an owner's provisional and the two driver provisionals went to drivers who finished last season higher in points, so he was on the outside looking in.
"We were so disappointed when we missed the race at Elko," Salemi said. "We missed it by .04 seconds, two-tenths off the pole. We were too loose in qualifying there and I buzzed the tires on my qualifying laps."
If there was a silver lining to missing the show, it's that the team, which only had one car to use for the two-race weekend, didn't have to worry about having to fix race damage that may have happened had they raced on Elko's bullring. This made preparing for the 7/8ths-mile Iowa Speedway that much easier.
While Salemi suffered a harmless spin during practice for Sunday's Featherlite Coaches 200, that may have wound up helping him qualify for the race.
"We were loose in and loose off and I looped the car off of four in practice. When I went back out after that, we were two-tenths quicker. I just needed to find the edge, and we did," he explained.
With veteran Busch East racer Dale Quarterley helping the team set up the car, Salemi made his qualifying attempt for the race and posted the eleventh-fastest time, solidly putting him in the field for a race that ten cars wound up missing out on.
"The first lap was the winner. The second lap we just got loose in. A lot of guys went faster on their first lap and we knew that since we went out late. So I went out there giving it everything I had on that first lap and I gave it a little more on the second, and that was too much," Salemi explained.
Salemi settled in just outside the top ten for the race's early stages, making his first pit stop under a lap 55 caution. He brought the car back in on lap 114 for tires, and after that he was set to run to the finish.
"We were riding around in twentieth the whole race with the car being so tight," he said. "We wound up going about 130 laps before we changed tires and when we did, the right front was all blistered. We wound up making some adjustments trying to make the car a little better and we thought we were going to make a run for it at the end, I was hoping for a top-five."
The top-five goal went out the window when Salemi went three-wide on the frontstretch and got squeezed into the wall. With both front fenders damaged, the handling went away and he fell back, finishing twelfth after 200 laps.
"We qualified eleventh and finished twelfth, and that's good enough for the fourth Busch East team here," he said. "That's not bad for the first time here, and it's my best qualifying effort ever. Eleventh out of 53 drivers is something else. Dale Quarterley has done a great job with this car. I just drive it.
"My guys did awesome pit stops, and they pitted for Dion Ciccarelli's team too. We came in to pit one lap when the pace car was already halfway down the back straight and they still got me out with tires in time to stay on the lead lap. We had fun."
Salemi owes a debt of gratitude to Barney McRae, owner of Motion Racing, who loaned Salemi's team a rear end after Salemi's broke in practice at Elko. "I owe him, I really do. We'd be back in New Hampshire now if it weren't for him," Salemi said.
Salemi summed up his weekend.
"I wanted to run at Elko, but if we ran that race, we might not have had a car to run here, and I really wanted to come here," he said. "I like the big tracks, this car likes the big tracks and Dale likes to set the cars up for the big tracks. I hope we got some good exposure for Milwaukee Tools, Express Signs, and Daddy's Hot Sauce."