BUSCH: Las Vegas: Danny O'Quinn Jr race notes

LAS VEGAS, N.V. (March 11, 2006)- Danny O'Quinn Jr. and the No. 50 World Financial Group (WFG) team came to the city of lights with hopes of a good solid finish. The WFG team brought the same car they ran in California to race in the Sam's Town...

LAS VEGAS, N.V. (March 11, 2006)- Danny O'Quinn Jr. and the No. 50 World Financial Group (WFG) team came to the city of lights with hopes of a good solid finish. The WFG team brought the same car they ran in California to race in the Sam's Town 300, after replacing the nose of the car in hopes of better front down force.

Practice for the Sam's Town 300 was the first that O'Quinn Jr. and crew didn't focus 100 percent on qualifying runs. Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer was more focused on being sure that the changes they made to the car after California were good ones, and to be sure that O'Quinn Jr. was comfortable. It didn't take long for them to realize that the new nose was helping. O'Quinn Jr. and Blickensderfer made adjustments to the chassis all throughout the practice sessions to get the car just right, and by the end of final practice, it was exactly how they wanted it.

"Good job guys," O'Quinn Jr. said over the radio after practice. "This is definitely the best we've been all year."

The No. 50 team made the right adjustments on their Ford Fusion throughout practice and communicated well about the changes that needed to be made to the car. The all-important chemistry between driver and crew chief was apparent, and the team was very encouraged at the end of Friday's on-track practice sessions.

O'Quinn Jr. qualified the car in the 17th position, and ran considerably faster laps than they had in their qualifying runs in practice.

On race morning, it was extremely cold and cloudy, and there was a threat of rain and even snow. Many teams did not expect to get to race on Saturday, but the weather at start time was not an issue.

At the beginning of the race, the No. 50 WFG Fusion was running well. O'Quinn Jr. was getting a feel for the car and maintained his starting position of 17th.

The first caution flag flew on lap nine for trouble on the No. 14 car.

Under the caution laps, O'Quinn Jr. radioed the crew and told them that the car was good and turning really well.

O'Quinn Jr. restarted in the 19th position, and by lap 26, he was running in the 16th position. He radioed the crew and said the car was awesome. The WFG team was happy to see their No. 50 Ford Fusion running solidly in the top-20, knocking on the door of the top-15 with a car that they struggled with in California.

The first pit stop of the day was made under green flag conditions. The cycle of green flag pit stops had begun when O'Quinn Jr. spotted rain in turns one and two. He radioed the crew regarding the weather and the WFG team thought that NASCAR might wave the caution flag, leaving them in the top-10 position they gained through the cycle of pit stops. Allowing them to pit under caution, they would be able to maintain the position they made up during the cycle of green flag stops.

Blickensderfer held O'Quinn Jr. on the racetrack a couple of extra laps, thinking there would be a caution. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough rain falling for NASCAR to wave the yellow flag.

The No. 50 Ford Fusion came down pit road on lap 65 for four tires, fuel, a track bar and an air pressure adjustment to fix the loose condition of the race car.

A mistake on the pit stop cost the No. 50 team time on the racetrack, and that in addition to the blistering pace the leaders were setting on the track, found O'Quinn Jr. one lap down in the 36th position.

The adjustments helped the Fusion, and O'Quinn Jr. found himself picking up positions lap after lap. He came over the radio and told the crew, "Whatever you did to this thing, it is really rolling now." By lap 89, he had worked his way to the 26th position.

O'Quinn Jr. maintained his position in the lower twenties for the rest of the day with a fast but loose race car. As a result of the blistering pace of the leaders, O'Quinn Jr. found himself a second lap down, and was only able to keep what he felt was a top-15 car in contention with the other same-lap cars.

O'Quinn Jr. came in and the crew put tires on the Ford Fusion after the last caution that extended the race beyond the advertised distance. It helped him gain a few positions at the end of the race, and he crossed the finish line in the 23rd position.

"The changes we made to the car [after California] were definitely a plus," O'Quinn Jr. said after the race. "We learned a lot more this week but we didn't finish where we felt we were capable of finishing."

NASCAR penalized the No. 50 WFG team two positions after the checkered flag for placing themselves in the incorrect restart position under the caution before the final restart. As a result, O'Quinn Jr. ended the day in the 25th position.

"I think we could have finished in the top-15 had circumstances worked our way. But there's no point in speculating on that, we just have to look at what problems we had and fix those," said O'Quinn Jr. "We showed we can run a lot better, so now we're going to show that week in and week out."

O'Quinn Jr. and his No. 50 Roush Racing team head to the Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend with co-primary sponsor Stonebridge Life Insurance Company on board for the first time this season.


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Drivers Danny O'Quinn