Fontana: Scott Lagasse Jr race report

Career Best Finish for Lagasse Jr. at California (February 21, 2009) Fontana, Cali. & ...

Career Best Finish for Lagasse Jr. at California

(February 21, 2009) Fontana, Cali. – Scott Lagasse Jr. was looking to redeem himself after the season-opener at Daytona was not so kind to the CJM Racing team. In his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway, the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contender was able to do just that. The chemistry was apparent as the team was able to recover from a slight handling condition and a prolonged pit stop to finish out the Stater Bros. 300 in the 12th position.

The Gatorz Precision Built Eyewear Toyota Camry was a viable contender right from the start. The team unloaded a brand new chassis and within the first practice session the No. 11 was displayed in the 13th position with a quick time of 41.290 seconds, 174.376 mph. That impressive start to the weekend was followed up with a 19th quick time in final practice with a 41.560 second lap, 173.206 mph.

"We just really hoped to come into California and have better luck than what happened to us in Daytona. Our cars have been strong and every time I get out on the race track I learn a little more," explained Lagasse Jr.

The California sun shone down Saturday morning for a full day of qualifying and race action. The Gatorz Precision Built Eyewear Toyota hit the track first thing in the morning for two laps of qualifying. Despite a loose handling condition, Lagasse Jr. was able to lay down a solid qualifying lap with a 23rd starting position.

As the sun began to set behind the snow capped mountains, Lagasse Jr. eagerly awaited the start of the 150-lap event. This was the moment he had been waiting for all week. Another chance to get out on the track and race against some of the world's best stock car racers.

The green flag dropped and the Gatorz Precision Built Eyewear Toyota gained valuable positions almost immediately. Lagasse Jr. quickly moved up seven positions within two laps. On lap three, a free handling condition started to plague the No. 11 but the positioning out on the race track never faltered.

As the laps continued under green flag conditions, the No. 11 Gatorz Precision Built Eyewear Toyota was brought down pit road on lap 42 for the first of four pit stops. A slight hiccup occurred while making a track bar adjustment causing the team extra time on pit road. Upon returning to the track, the No. 11 was displayed one lap down running in the 16th position.

Despite the pit stop error, the team continued to charge forward and with determination the team was credited with the lucky dog award on lap 89.

The next three stops were some of the best times out on pit road. All stops included four tires, fuel and a slight adjustment to fix the loose handling issue.

With less than 50 laps remaining, Lagasse Jr. expressed his happiness with the handling of the race car and his lap times began to steadily pick up. By lap 103, the Gatorz Precision Built Eyewear Toyota had broken into the top-10. As the laps wound down the No. 11 slid back slightly in the field to finish out the evening in the 12th position. The 12th place finish was a career best finish for Lagasse Jr. in the NASCAR ranks.

"We worked together as a team to get us in a position to compete up front. The guys never gave up and Paul (crew chief) made some great calls to get the car handling right," Lagasse Jr. remarked. "I couldn't be happier with the direction this team is heading in and can't wait to get to Vegas."

Next up, the NASCAR Nationwide Series while jump a short distance over to Las Vegas, Nevada.

-credit: cjmr

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Drivers Scott Lagasse Jr.