John Salemi Roughed Up Late In New England 125, Finishes Eighteenth Loudon, N.H. (June 29, 2007) - If the New England 125, the sixth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of 2007, were the New England 121, John Salemi would have...
John Salemi Roughed Up Late In New England 125, Finishes Eighteenth
Loudon, N.H. (June 29, 2007) - If the New England 125, the sixth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of 2007, were the New England 121, John Salemi would have had an impressive eleventh-place finish in one of the biggest races of the year for the series. But Salemi was caught up in the last wreck of the day, and while he came out of that in good shape, he got run into the frontstretch wall coming to take the white flag in the final laps and had to settle for an eighteenth-place finish.
The weekend started off slowly for the Nashua, N.H. driver as he was held up in tech inspection and missed out on most of the single practice session. With just a few laps at speed under his belt heading into qualifying, he headed into time trials and posted the thirtieth-fastest time.
We got about four laps of practice, and we only used that to break in the new brake pads," he said. "We threw a race setup under the car not knowing what it would be like for qualifying, I just wanted to loosen it up as much as we could. It should race well, but it didn't qualify well. I went out for time trials not knowing what we had.
"We can make some adjustments before the race, but it's still a lot of unknowns right now," Salemi continued. "I know from racing here in the past that if you start off the race tight, you're going to be in trouble. The car was loose in qualifying so I think we'll be in good shape. But there's a lot of work to do to get to the front."
The march to the front was put on hold after fifteen laps when caution came out and Salemi reported to pit road for a chassis adjustment. Following that came a long green-flag run where a lot of cars went a lap down, but Salemi remained on the lead lap when the second caution of the race came out on lap 46. He came to pit road a second time under that yellow, and his crew came through again to get him back in the action still on the lead lap.
"We made two pit stops where we put spring rubbers in," he said. "Those are hard pit stops to make because you have to put the same tire on, which means you have to pick the lugnuts off the ground and rethread them on. We did that twice while near the back of the pack and we didn't lose a lap either time. I've got a great crew."
The longest green-flag run after that point was just five laps as the second half of the race was wreck-filled. Salemi missed these wrecks and continued picking up positions until the final accident just five laps from the scheduled end of the race.
"I knew it was going to be like that at the end," he said. "It comes down to whether you're going to be in the wreck or not. That last wreck happened in front of me and I couldn't slow down in time. Somebody in front of me checked up and I got into the back of somebody. I went high, which was the right way to go, but I didn't go high enough and got the left front bent up. It also bent the wheel and knocked the toe-out off by about two inches. We decided then that we'd just run it to the finish that way, we were still in twelfth place at that point and it was going to be a green-white-checkered finish."
On that final restart, Salemi got put into the frontstretch wall hard enough to cause him to lose six positions on the track, and he finished eighteenth.
"We put right-side tires on and made the right adjustments and we were set to race to the end, and we were coming to the front. We weren't going to get to fifth place, but a top ten finish was a realistic possibility. We stayed out of a lot of trouble, dodged a lot of bullets, got lucky a lot, but you can only push your luck so far before it catches up. We came to take the white flag and I got put in the wall maybe three times coming down the frontstraight. It was tough."
The aftermath was a No. 63 race car that needs significant bodywork before it can race again. That will require another trip to Mooresville, N.C., but Salemi could only look to the positive side of his weekend at NHIS.
"I got up to eleventh place, and I was all the way back in last place after we made an early pit stop and almost went a lap down," he said. "Someone came by and said that we passed forty cars for position today. We showed today that, with just two laps of speed in practice, we could still get this car into the top ten. It just shows what Dale Quarterley can do. We had a car that was almost undriveable and he knew exactly what to do to make the car better. And now we know what to come here with to start out next time and we'll only get better.
"We all work hard in the garage, at the track, and on pit road," Salemi continued. "Dale's experience is helping me as a driver because he can tell me what he's done to drive around problems and try to get the car to work better on the track. I'll tell him what I think the problem is and a lot of the things he tells me to try wind up working. We're communicating pretty good and we're showing up at the track with a race car that's getting better each time out."
-credit: John Salemi Racing