ANDRETTI AND TEAM PERSEVERE IN SPITE OF EARLY RACE ACCIDENT AT TALLADEGA Andretti puts forth season-best qualifying effort; Blown tire relegates team to 33rd place finish TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 7, 2007) -- The Car of Tomorrow (CoT) finally...
ANDRETTI AND TEAM PERSEVERE IN SPITE OF EARLY RACE ACCIDENT AT TALLADEGA
Andretti puts forth season-best qualifying effort; Blown tire relegates team to 33rd place finish
TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 7, 2007) -- The Car of Tomorrow (CoT) finally made its restrictor-plate race debut this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. For John Andretti and the BAM Racing team, qualifying for the race was of the utmost importance as the team prepares for the first five races of the 2008 NEXTEL Sprint Cup Series season. Andretti captured the team's best starting position of the year with an impressive seventh place qualifying effort. He posted competitive lap times during the race, running as high as second, before a blown tire and subsequent repairs put the team laps down. He finished the UAW-Ford 500 in the 33rd position.
Before an estimated crowd of 155,000 spectators, the field approached the green flag with teams and fans alike wondering what the afternoon would hold on track. With the CoT set to run full-time in 2008, the BAM Racing team was focused on learning as much as possible to prepare for the Daytona 500 in February.
The first of nine cautions occurred on lap 19 when Andretti unexpectedly blew a right front tire. Without warning, he was sent into the wall with the right side of the Paralyzed Veterans Dodge sustaining minor damage. However, the right front fender was substantially damaged due to the blown tire and the team was forced to the garage for repairs.
"I was just about to radio that the car was handling great," said Andretti as he headed to the garage. "I had no warning that the tire was going to blow. It happened out of nowhere."
The BAM Racing crew worked feverishly to rebuild the right front fender. Andretti was able to return to the race on lap 56 as green flag stops began for the field. Once the pit stops cycled through, Andretti was posted in the 43rd position running 37 laps down to the leader.
Andretti was not the only driver to experience tire problems during the race as several drivers faced similar circumstances. Other teams, particularly Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. teams, experienced engines woes that forced Chase contenders Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Burton out of the race while Kevin Harvick was down a cylinder.
A multi-car accident, known as the "big one" at superspeedways, occurred on lap 146 involving 11 cars. Although Andretti was laps behind the leader, many cars were damaged beyond repair. If Andretti could maintain his position on track, he would ultimately advance in the finishing order.
Andretti and Harvick teamed up for a period of time in order to help each other from being lapped by the leader. As the race came to an end, Andretti held on to capture a 33rd place finish advancing seven positions in the final results.
"It seemed it was more important to have cylinders today than fenders," said crew chief Dean Johnson. "We were able to make solid repairs to the Paralyzed Veterans Dodge and finish the race. The car was really good before the accident and we learned a lot as we prepare for the first five races of 2008."