FIKE STARTS THE DAY WITH TOP-20 QUALIFYING EFFORT, FINISHES WITH 26th-PLACE RUN IN ATLANTA BUSCH RACE HAMPTON, Ga. (Saturday, March 18, 2006) - Aaron Fike and the ...
FIKE STARTS THE DAY WITH TOP-20 QUALIFYING EFFORT, FINISHES WITH 26th-PLACE RUN IN ATLANTA BUSCH RACE
HAMPTON, Ga. (Saturday, March 18, 2006) - Aaron Fike and the #43 Flagstar Bank/Smith Transportation Dodge team of the Curb Agajanian Performance Group turned in a workmanlike day on the NASCAR Busch Series' annual stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway today, opening with a top-20 qualifying effort and closing with a 26th-place finish in the Nicorette 300, his first-ever NBS start and finish here on the mile-and-a-half quad oval south of Atlanta.
Fike, the 23-year-old out of Galesburg, Ill., clocked a fast qualifying lap of 185.828 mph (29.834 seconds) to take the inside-20th-row starting position for this afternoon's 195-lap main event.
In the opening laps of the race, he battled a tight condition that the team was able to begin rectifying with the day's first caution period coming on Lap 11. The CAPG crew made multiple chassis and tire-pressure adjustments during that first yellow-flag stop on Lap 13, its first of six flawless pit stops on the day. The car tightened up again as the race approached its midpoint, when Fike pitted for the fifth time on the day under yellow on Lap 102. He resumed in 29th place when the race went green on Lap 106. Tight conditions prevailed during the subsequent 37-lap green-flag run, hindering Fike's ability to keep pace with the leaders and sending him a lap down for the first time in the race on Lap 130. The day's sixth and final stop came under yellow on Lap 151 with significant chassis adjustments once again to accompany the final set of sticker tires. Fike resumed in 27th place and was able to pick up one more position before the checkered flag flew.
Next up for Fike and his fellow NBS competitors is next Saturday's Sharpie Mini 300 on the Bristol Motor Speedway high-banked half-mile concrete oval.
"We got a lot of things right today. The guys did some incredible work in the pits. It was one of our best days of the season in that regard. They worked their tails off to get that right this week, and they also worked their tails off to get the Flagstar Bank Dodge right for qualifying after we struggled with various things in practice on Friday. I think we were pretty decent at the start of the race today. A little tight on entry and exit, but we were able to get our arms around it with that early yellow. What probably made the difference in the race was that long green run where we went down a lap. I think maybe we didn't free the car up quite enough on that stop. We fell behind, but we were able to gain ground with another long green run at the end. Live and learn. We're chipping away at it. We made great gains with our pit work. That's something to build upon going to Bristol."