BIRMINGHAM, AL (November 27, 2001) - Richard Johns and his NetZero/GMAC/Team ASE team finished their rookie season with a solid seventh-place finish in the inaugural Southern All Stars Pro Truck Series event at Birmingham International ...
BIRMINGHAM, AL (November 27, 2001) - Richard Johns and his NetZero/GMAC/Team ASE team finished their rookie season with a solid seventh-place finish in the inaugural Southern All Stars Pro Truck Series event at Birmingham International Raceway.
Saturday's practice and qualifying for the event were called off after just 40 minutes of track time when tornado warnings were issued for the Birmingham area. On Sunday, a new chassis set up, courtesy of crew chief Mark Staples, allowed Johns to gain a full half second over his practice times and qualify his Chevy Silverado in the ninth starting spot for the race later that day.
"I really didn't know what we were going to have in qualifying, especially with the changes we made," said Johns. "I just knew we had to do something because we were out in left field in practice. I took it kind of easy the first lap and the truck felt the best it had felt since we got there so on the second lap I pushed it a little harder. I know I left a little on the table with the second lap, but I also know I might have pushed it a little further and backed it into the fence, so all in all our qualifying effort wasn't too bad."
Johns took the green flag in the 100-lap event and stayed in the Top-10 for the first 25 circuits while adjusting to the new set up and tricky Birmingham International Raceway layout. Eventually, Johns pitted at the halfway mark for fuel, running solidly in the eighth position.
Riding on tires that had been chemically softened for the first time in his career, Johns found tire conservation to be crucial during the second half of the event. The softer tire wore much quicker than what Johns had been used to forcing the 19-year-old driver to ride out the final 20 laps of the event settling for a seventh-place finish.
"This was the last race of the year and we'd never softened tires, so we decided to give it a try," said Johns. "I should have listened to Vince (Johns' spotter - NASCAR Craftsman Truck competitor, Vince Whitmire) and been easier on the tires the first half of the race. We had a pretty decent truck and I just got too racy. By the 75-lap mark, I'd completely worn out the right rear tire. This is the first time I've worn the tires down this much and I just wasn't prepared for it. All part of being a rookie and learning I guess.
"We should have been in the Top-5 today," continued the University of North Carolina Charlotte Motorsports Engineering sophomore. "I kind of let Mark and the team down today. They gave me a good truck and I made a couple of mistakes. We learned a lot this year and to come out of here with another Top-10 finish isn't too bad. Next season, we'll take what we learned and use it to put the NetZero/GMAC/Team ASE Silverado in the front."
Johns, who also works part-time at Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, will also use the off-season as a learning experience.
"I definitely have to hit the books, that's my number-one priority," stated Johns. "I'm getting a great education and experience in the UNCC Motorsports Engineering program. Working at Hendrick is a huge bonus. I'm just trying to keep my eyes and ears open and do as much as I can. It's an awesome opportunity to be involved in a NASCAR program and take the lessons learned there and apply them to my racing program."