Montreal: Alex Garcia race report

Alex Garcia Is Part Of NASCAR History In Rainy Montreal Race MONTREAL, Quebec (Tuesday, August 5, 2008) -- A year after a heartbreaking engine failure destroyed a certain top-10 finish, Venezuelan road course expert Alex Garcia returned to...

Alex Garcia Is Part Of NASCAR History In Rainy Montreal Race

MONTREAL, Quebec (Tuesday, August 5, 2008) -- A year after a heartbreaking engine failure destroyed a certain top-10 finish, Venezuelan road course expert Alex Garcia returned to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for vindication; instead, Garcia found himself a part of challenging and historical race in the wet.

After tying his career best starting position from the previous year, Alex Garcia took the green flag in the 24th spot, while ominous clouds and lightning loomed in the distance. On the 8th lap, Garcia slid the Dixien/OmniSource Chevrolet into the 21st position just as a competition caution was thrown for rain.

Teams were ultimately given eight minutes to adjust to the watery conditions, and the Transnet Racing team went to work, swapping out race slicks for four Goodyear heavy rain tires. The pit crew then applied wax to the windshield of the No. 98 to bead away moisture, before turning on the car's running light and attempting to install the car's windshield wiper. Unfortunately, the crew was unable to get the wiper working properly, and the racecar returned to the track without it.

Garcia, a former Champ Car Atlantic driver and seasoned road course racer, was experienced with racing in wet conditions, and when green flag racing resumed, the No. 004 chassis became even more competitive. "It took a while for the tire pressures to build up, but once they did, we were really racy out there," said the owner/driver.

On Lap 22 the Transnet Racing team made their first scheduled pit stop under yellow after the 64 of Max Papis lost traction and went off course. The pit crew quickly filled the car with fuel, pulled a windshield tear-off, and checked the wear on the 6-year-old rain tires before sending the car on its way.

Upon returning to the track, Garcia felt car was good on entry, but had a hard time "finding the power." The Dixien/OmniSource Chevrolet made another scheduled pit stop on lap 30, and the team took their second set of rain tires, pulled the rear spring rubbers, and topped off with fuel. The team's pit stop was blazing fast, but the car's tachometer had broken in the attempt to install the car's windshield wiper and Garcia was sent to the tail end of the longest line for entering the pits too quickly.

Restarting in 30th after the penalty, the adjustments made on pit road paid off as Garcia quickly picked off cars one by one, running as high as 16th after 11 laps; however, as rain conditions worsened, so did visibility, and on lap 41 Alex was forced to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop because he could no longer see out the windshield.

Once on pit road, the team once again pulled a tear-off and wiped the windshield down with wax, and again Transnet Racing was assessed a speeding penalty, this time for being too fast on exit. "Without the tach, I was keeping pace with the cars around me in order to maintain pit road speed," said Garcia, "but unfortunately those cars were going too fast, and an entire group of us was given a pass-through penalty."

By this time, weather conditions had become even worse, and pooling water and heavy rain made visibility nearly impossible, despite the team's efforts in the pits. NASCAR threw the race's 4th and final caution because of the severe weather, and the entire field was slowed. Unfortunately, visibility was also a problem for Jacques Villeneuve, and when Garcia decelerated to pace speed, Jacques was unable to see him and rear-ended the Transnet Racing machine so hard that it ended the day for the 32 team. Following the incident, the red flag was thrown, which ultimately gave way to the checkered when NASCAR called the race for rain 25 laps shy of the scheduled 74, leaving Alex Garcia in the 26th position officially.

"It was a good race overall, and it was fun to be involved in NASCAR's first points race in the rain." said Garcia, "But in the end, the conditions were just too bad. It's unfortunate, because I feel our position still could have improved a bunch despite the rear end damage had the race continued, but it just wasn't safe out there towards the end."

Transnet Racing was originally scheduled to compete in the following race at Watkins Glen International, but the damage sustained by the No. 98 Dixien/OmniSource Chevrolet was too severe to be repaired in time, and the team has withdrawn from the event.

The team will announce its future plans in the coming week.

-credit: tnr

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Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Max Papis , Alex Garcia