Chicagoland: Scott Lagasse Jr race report

Battle to the Front Results in a 20th Place Finish for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team (July 10, 2009) Joliet, Ill. & ...

Battle to the Front Results in a 20th Place Finish for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team

(July 10, 2009) Joliet, Ill. – The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team weathered the storm in the "windy city" to bring home a top-20 finish. The team came back from a subpar qualifying effort starting in the 30th position, battled some handling woes and track conditions to cross the finish line in the 20th position.

In the last six races, CJM Racing has not finished outside of the top-20 and the team came into Chicagoland hoping to keep that streak alive. With a lot of determination and hard work that hope became a reality Friday evening.

Teams unloaded their haulers early Thursday morning for the first activity on the schedule, technical inspection. Once the cars cleared inspection it was time to prepare for two practice sessions. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota hit the mile-and-a-half facility for the first time that afternoon. In his first laps in a Nationwide Series car at Chicagoland, Lagasse Jr. posted the 12th quickest time out of 49 cars. That 12th place position would be repeated in the final practice session as the No. 11 Toyota Camry ran a 31.361 second lap, 172.188 mph.

Moving on to qualifying the following day, Lagasse Jr. drew the second qualifying spot. As the rains cleared and the heat moved in, the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota took to the track. The changing weather and track conditions combined with an early qualifying spot, did not fair well for the qualifying effort. Lagasse Jr. ran a time of 31.242 seconds; placing the No. 11 in the 30th position for Friday night's race under the lights.

The green flag fell just as night set in and the 200-lap race was underway. Lagasse Jr. was poised to make his move to the front. Within 15 laps, the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota had moved up 11 positions and sat in the 19th position. The forward momentum seemed to decrease as more laps were logged as Lagasse Jr. reported in a free handling condition. Unfortunately a long green flag run would not allow the team to come down for immediate relief. It was only when the cars started to run low on fuel they were brought down pit road for service.

The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team visited pit road a total of four times with the first stop coming at lap 54. Four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment were made and the No. 11 machine returned to the race track in the 13th position.

When the caution flag finally did wave on lap 92, Lagasse Jr. was credited with the 12th position and still battling a loose handling race car. Adjustments to help rectify the on-track concerns were made on laps 93, 154 and again on lap 187.

Despite the valiant effort to help boost the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota back into the top-15, the advance would never come into fruition. Long green flag runs, dominant leaders and a finicky race car, left Lagasse Jr. battling for a top-20 position for the remainder of the evening.

"It was just one of those nights," explained Lagasse Jr. "It felt like the odds were stacked against us as soon as the green flag waved. It's tough racing your way to the front at a track like Chicagoland and if your handling is slightly off it makes it even more of a challenge. The car is in one-piece and I learned a thing or two out there so we'll take the 20th place finish and move on to Gateway."

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will begin a three-week string of stand-alone races beginning this Saturday night as teams will compete in the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway. The race will air LIVE on ESPN2 Saturday, July 18th at 9:30 pm (EST).

-credit: cjm

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Drivers Scott Lagasse Jr.