One Team Approach Leads Sorenson to a 16th-Place Finish in Front of Hometown Crowd Hampton, Ga. (March 19, 2005) --- Reed Sorenson overcame a transmission problem during his qualifying run that forced him to jump in teammate Sterling Marlin's...
One Team Approach Leads Sorenson to a 16th-Place Finish in Front of Hometown Crowd
Hampton, Ga. (March 19, 2005) --- Reed Sorenson overcame a transmission problem during his qualifying run that forced him to jump in teammate Sterling Marlin's NASCAR Busch Series car to finish 19th at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Saturday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway started out like any other typical impound race morning for Sorenson. After meeting several Discount Tire guests, Sorenson prepared for his qualifying run at his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Aaron's 312 was the final race that the Discount Tire team needed to make on speed before 2005 owner points would set the field.
As Sorenson exited pit road for his warm-up lap before taking the green, the gear got stuck when he shifted from second to third sending the rookie spinning in the grass. Sorenson communicated to his crew chief Brian Pattie that he thought it was the transmission. Per NASCAR rules, any car that has not taken the green flag for their qualifying lap has five minutes to try and fix the car and send it back out to qualify.
The Discount Tire Dodge was brought to the entrance of pit road on a roll back and immediately Pattie, along with NEXTEL Cup crew chiefs Jimmy Elledge and Donnie Wingo and team managers Tony Glover and Andy Graves, went to work. The Discount Tire crew assisted in trying to get the gear unstuck within the time limit. At one point it looked like the team might have been successful but alas the time ran out and the car was unable to make a qualifying run.
As the crew pushed the car back to the garage, qualifying continued and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Marlin rolled off 44th. After a 28th-place qualifying effort in his No. 40 FitzBradshaw Racing Dodge, Marlin returned to the garage and was quickly brought into the No. 41 hauler. As team officials from the No. 40 and No. 41 teams discussed their options, qualifying ended. The decision was made to allow Sorenson, who is running for driver points, to replace Marlin, who is running a limited schedule and is not in contention for the championship.
The Discount Tire crew quickly went to work to get the No.40 car ready for racing in less than an hour. The biggest challenge for the team was getting the seat in the car adjusted for the two-inch shorter and 20-pound lighter Sorenson. After adjusting the seat, adding car decals to include Discount Tire on the car and other minor adjustments, the Discount Tire crew pushed the No. 40 out on pit road for the start of the Aaron's 312 in front of Sorenson's hometown crowd.
Sorenson and the No. 40 Dodge started from the 43rd position due to the driver change at the start of the race. Within 17 laps, the No. 40 had gained 16 spots and was running 27th when the caution flag came out on lap 17. Sorenson reported that the car felt good and that no changes were needed, so Pattie called for a four tire and fuel stop on lap 19.
The No. 40 restarted 29th on lap 22 and was gaining positions when the yellow waved again on lap 28. In order to gain track position, Pattie called for a gas only stop on lap 30. When racing resumed, Sorenson was sitting in the sixth position. The No. 40 quickly fell back though as many other cars had taken on new tires, and Sorenson was 15th on lap 35.
When the yellow flag waved on lap 66, Sorenson reported that the car was beginning to get a little loose, so the Discount Tire crew made a four tire, fuel and air pressure adjustment stop on lap 68. The No. 40 picked up two spots in the pits and restarted 14th on lap 71.
Sorenson continued to battle the differences in the car as he fell back to 24th on lap 82. The No. 40 gained three spots when the fifth caution came out on lap 110 and Sorenson was 21st. He radioed the crew that the car felt good on long runs but was having trouble when he was around other cars.
Pattie called him down pit road for four tires and fuel and the Discount Tire crew once again picked up three spots and restarted 18th on lap 115. During the next pit stop on lap 141, it was apparent that Sorenson was battling the comfort of the seat as he radioed to Pattie that he could barely reach the clutch while the Discount Tire crew put on four fresh tires and gas. When racing resumed the No. 40 was up two spots to 16th. Sorenson stayed focus and worked his way up to 13th.
With the excitement of a top-10 finish within reach, the Discount Tire crew put on four tires and added fuel. As Sorenson returned to the track he reported that he felt like the left front tire was going down so he came back down pit road for a new set of tires. When racing resumed on lap 181, Sorenson was 24th.
Another caution came out just one lap later and Sorenson again reported that the car was vibrating with a possible tire going down. A loose lugnut on the previous stop was found to be the culprit, so the Discount Tire crew put on four more tires and restarted from the 23rd position on lap 188.
In the final 15 laps, Sorenson was able to pick up four positions and take the checkered flag in the 19th spot. Sorenson's 19th-place finish kept him fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series driver championship point's standings, just 125 points out of first place.
"There were a few little things different in the No. 40 car," Sorenson said. "I wasn't sure what the car setup was at first. As racing went on I got more comfortable with it. The seat however was really off, so I felt pretty uncomfortable in the seat. About halfway through the race that seat was killing me and now I feel like my body is broken in half."
"I was getting pretty excited there towards the end of the race because we were running around 15th or so, and I figured we might be able to get a few more spots and get close right there to the top 10 and I thought that was pretty neat. We had a couple of loose wheels there at the end though and we had to come down pit road and get those tightened up."
The Discount Tire Dodge will spend the Easter weekend in Nashville next weekend for the Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be broadcast live on FX television and MRN radio on Saturday, March 26th at 3:30 p.m. EST.