Sauter Rallies to 22nd in Food City 250 Kleenex Racing Team has eventful weekend at "the new Bristol" Bristol, TN (August 24, 2007) ... The Food City 250 was the first NASCAR Busch Series race on the "new Bristol Motor Speedway". The "World's ...
Sauter Rallies to 22nd in Food City 250
Kleenex Racing Team has eventful weekend at "the new Bristol"
Bristol, TN (August 24, 2007) ... The Food City 250 was the first NASCAR Busch Series race on the "new Bristol Motor Speedway". The "World's Fastest Half-Mile Track" was repaved since the Spring races with new concrete surface and gradual banking. The result was arguably one of the best Busch Series races of the 2007 season. Johnny Sauter and the #27 Kleenex Racing Team had an eventful weekend, overcoming brake, vibration, and accident damage to rally for a 22nd-place finish in the 250-lap event.
The Food City 250 weekend at BMS began with an "open test day" on Thursday, August 23rd. Busch Series teams had four hours Thursday afternoon to "fine-tune" their cars for the challenge of 250 laps on the new concrete surface. The Kleenex Racing Team faced their first challenge of the weekend when Sauter reported that his brake pedal went to the floor during his initial practice laps. Crew Chief Stewart Cooper and the Kleenex crew evaluated and began to fix the problem. However, Sauter was only able to get in a limited number of practice laps on Thursday due to the reoccurring brake issue.
After a complete overhaul of the brake system in the Kleenex Ford Fusion, Sauter had two practice sessions on Friday morning prior to qualifying. Sauter was the 43rd driver to make his qualifying run, and responded with a fast lap of 16.311 seconds / 117.638 mph to earn the 29th starting position. However, as Sauter exited his car after qualifying, he told Cooper that, once again, his brake pedal went to the floor and he had little or no brakes.
With the new surface certain to provide two and three-wide racing, Sauter looked forward to the challenge of driving through the field. However, the uncertainty of the brakes would make his challenge a tall one. And, in the early stages of the race, Sauter reported that his brakes were "better, but still just fair". By lap 30, Sauter told Cooper that his Kleenex Ford Fusion was "loose in and tight off". On lap 45, leader Jeff Burton passed Sauter to put him one lap down in the 35th position.
Sauter then reported that he felt a "bad vibration" in the right front as he entered the turns. When caution waved on lap 51, Sauter made his initial pit stop of the race. The Kleenex crew changed four tires, refueled, and checked the right front for possible causes of the vibration. Sauter would restart on lap 56 in 36th position.
Sauter would continue to feel the vibration in the right front, and made three addition pit stops in the next forty laps for the crew to assess the issue. The crew changed the spacer on the right front during a stop on lap 101, and Sauter would restart 34th on lap 105. Sauter reported that his car was still loose in and tight off several laps after the restart. On lap 132, several cars spun in front of Sauter on the frontstretch, and the Kleenex Ford Fusion got caught up in the melee. Sauter pitted on lap 135 for the crew to work on the right front damage and check the "toe-in". He would restart 30th on lap 138, one lap down.
The Kleenex Team got a much needed break on lap 150 when caution waved for another accident. Sauter was the first car one lap down and received the "lucky dog award" and placed back on the lead lap. He would restart in 28th on lap 157.
Even though he was back on the lead lap, Sauter was still battling an ill-handling Ford Fusion during the remaining hundred laps. However, both Sauter and the Kleenex Racing Team kept making adjustments and working their way up in the running order. With fifty laps remaining, Sauter told Cooper that the "vibration was gone, and his Kleenex Ford Fusion was the best it's been since we started". With a determined effort by the entire team, Sauter brought the Kleenex Ford Fusion home in the 22nd position.
"We certainly had a tough weekend with brake issues and the vibration problem," Sauter commented. "The guys did a great job making changes between practice and qualifying because the car really had grip in the turns. Unfortunately, the brake issue kept me from charging the track. Then, we got down early in the race, but everyone kept working and we battled back to finish on the lead lap. The Busch races at Bristol are usually pretty wild, and this one was no exception. The new surface made for a great race. I really appreciate the effort by Stewart (Cooper) and the crew all weekend."
The Busch Series next travels to the California Speedway for the second time during the 2007 season. Practice and qualifying begins on Friday, August 31st, with the 150-lap, 300-mile race set for a 10:00 p.m. ET start on Saturday, September 1st. Jason Keller will drive the #27 Kleenex Ford Fusion at California. ESPN2 will provide live television coverage, with the Motor Racing Network and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128 handling the radio broadcast.