Alex Barron: ...
Alex Barron: #51 Dallara/Toyota/Firestone
Patrick Carpentier: #83 Dallara/Toyota/Firestone
NASHVILLE -- Rain clouds threatened over Nashville Superspeedway for the second straight day, but a few sprinkles couldn't spoil what was overall a very successful day for the Red Bull Cheever Racing team. The effort produced the team's second third-place finish in the last three races.
Starting from 17th and 19th positions, both Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron started the race by patiently moving up in the field. Carpentier kept marching up the grid, but an error in the pits dropped Barron to the back of the pack, which eventually cost him a lap. However, he was able to get the lap back on lap 130. Then Carpentier made contact with the #33 car of Ryan Briscoe, damaging the nose of his car. He was able to get it into the pits for the crew to repair the damage and get back out quickly. This apparent misfortune turned in the team's favor because when the #83 car was in the pits, the team was able to put extra fuel in the car. This would carry the car until the end of the race. Barron's early error also played into the team's favor with fuel strategy. So, when other cars turned into the pits after lap 161, both Red Bull Cheever Racing cars were able to remain on the track, which moved them into the top two positions, with Barron in the lead.
The two teammates battled each other for a few laps after the restart before Carpentier took his turn leading the race. Then on lap 176, trouble in the form of the #13 car came Barron's way. The two tangled in turn three before they both ended up in the wall. Fortunately, Barron walked away safely from the fiery crash, but the incident left him with a 15th place finish.
Carpentier remained in the lead during the caution, which was lengthened by the #55 car making contact with one of the safety vehicles on the track and a few light sprinkles. The track went green on lap 191, but Carpentier couldn't quite hold on, walking away with another third place finish. This matches his season best, which he scored at Richmond International Raceway just a few weeks ago. Despite not getting his first series win, Carpentier was still pleased with the result. His finish moved him back into 10th place in IndyCar Series standings.
"I'm very happy. We led some laps. We still don't have the fastest car out there, but the team played amazingly into the strategy, and we had a lot of luck. You need a bit of luck to do it. At the end there, I hit Ryan Briscoe, and it destroyed my nose. They lifted, and I never expected them to lift, and I rear ended them. I came into the pits, changed the nose and fueled it and had enough fuel to go to the end, so it was good. I'm very happy. The car was excellent. We were lacking a little bit of speed there at the end, so we weren't quite able to hang on to the lead. I'm really encouraged because we've really improved over the last three races, so I'm definitely looking forward to Milwaukee," Carpentier said.
After leading five laps of the race, Barron was obviously disappointed with his result, which is first DNF of the season.
"Starting out, we had a few glitches in the pits, which forced us to the back. Then we were able to run some solid laps before a yellow allowed us to get a lap back. Our fuel strategy worked out really well, which enabled us to get to the front. Then, I was running behind Pat and went into turn three and there was no room. The #13 car tried to stuff it in there, and there was nowhere for him to go. He slid right in to my left rear. I turned in when I was supposed to run in, and the next thing I know, I'm turned sideways. I wouldn't have done anything differently. That's the way it goes sometimes. It's truly unfortunate, though. We were really strong, and could have finished second or third," Barron said.
Team owner Eddie Cheever Jr. was pleased with the team's performance at Nashville and is optimistic about the team's outlook for the next few races, which will be run on primarily shorter tracks.
"Pat had a great drive, but I'm really disappointed for Alex. I'm very happy that he's okay, though. We came out with some really great strategy at the end and it paid off. We seem to be doing really well right now on the shorter tracks. Now we just need to get things figured out on the longer ones," Cheever said.
Red Bull Cheever Racing will be back in action next weekend at The Milwaukee Mile for the ABC Supply Co. / A.J. Foyt 225. The race will air live on Sunday, July 24 on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. ET.