Handling Hampers Hopes in California for Lester and Ballew Fontana, Calif. (February 25, 2007) - Handling issues hamper hopes of a top-10 finish for Bill Lester and the No.15 Billy Ballew Motorsports NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team Friday...
Handling Hampers Hopes in California for Lester and Ballew
Fontana, Calif. (February 25, 2007) - Handling issues hamper hopes of a top-10 finish for Bill Lester and the No.15 Billy Ballew Motorsports NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team Friday night at the California Speedway.
The Billy Ballew Motorsports team was riding high after an 11th place finish last week at the Daytona International Speedway and hoped to duplicate that success when Lester went out for his qualifying run Friday afternoon. Lester turned a first lap time of 41.572 seconds with a speed of 173.193 mph. As Lester was building momentum for his second lap the truck became tight in the center of the corner sending him up the track and forcing him to scrub the lap. Lester would take his first lap time and start in the 15th position.
"We had a pretty strong first lap in our Silverado during qualifying," Lester said. "The truck was really building up some momentum on the second lap when it got too tight in the center of the corner and washed up the track. Instead of putting the truck into the fence I just kept the first lap."
Ironically, Lester in the No. 15 Silverado started the race in the 15th position and was pitted in the No. 15 pit box. Hopes of the irony being a lucky sign soon faded after the green flag was dropped for the 100 lap race. Lester reported to the team within the first 15 laps that the truck was aero tight in traffic. The condition did not improve as the laps continued where Lester noted the truck was loose in to the corner and tight from the center of the corner off. The first of six caution flags flew on lap 32 for debris allowing Lester to pit for much needed adjustments. Lester brought the Bowen Family Homes truck down pit lane for a battery of adjustments.
Back on the track Lester's handling issues continued where he was again free by lap 41. Struggling to drive into the corners Lester was loosing valuable time dropping to 22nd, his lowest position of the race. By the time the second caution came out for a spin on lap 51 Lester was loose on the entry and all the way thru the corners but had managed to climb to the 16th place position. The crew once again serviced the truck with tires, gas and dropped the track bar to try to tighten the truck up. Pit strategy is 'key' and if the team could go to the end of the race without another stop it could play to their advantage near the end of the race. When the green flag was called off for another lap Lester brought the truck down pit lane again to top off the fuel restarting him in the 18th position.
When the caution once again waved on lap 72, Lester came down pit road for a splash of gas and was instructed by his crew chief Richie Wauters to pull a 'John Force' out of the pits to try to gain track positions. As instructed Lester used the dragster's burnout technique picking up two spots restarting on lap 74 in the 14th position.
Again Lester radioed the crew to tell them he was loose all the way thru the corners and was doing all he could to hold on to the race truck. On lap 87 Lester received his last set of tires and one more set of adjustments but continued to battle handling until the checkers flew where he crossed the line in the 20th position.
"I am disappointed with our finish," Lester said. "I really wanted to bring home a top-10 finish in this Bowen Family Homes Silverado. We were all over the board tonight having handling problems all night. It is only our second race of the season and we are still working on communication that will only benefit in us in future races. Like I said, I'm a little disappointed with the finish, but we brought it home in one piece without any significant damage. It was a solid finish; we'll take it and go forward to Atlanta to see what we can do there."
The next stop on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule is March 16, 2007 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, where both Lester and team owner Billy Ballew reside.