Top-10 Run Cut Short by an On-Track Incident in the Closing Laps of the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 (April 17, 2009) Avondale, Ariz. -- The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team was coming off of their second top-10 finish leaving Nashville...
Top-10 Run Cut Short by an On-Track Incident in the Closing Laps of the Bashas' Supermarkets 200
(April 17, 2009) Avondale, Ariz. -- The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team was coming off of their second top-10 finish leaving Nashville and was hoping to keep that streak alive entering Phoenix International Raceway on Friday. The team's performance was strong and it appeared that Lagasse Jr. was going to better his career high finish of ninth when a freak accident would change the fate on the race team in an instant. The No. 11 machine was sent into the wall with just 20 laps remaining of the 200-lap event and would not return to the race. The end result was a 32nd place finish for the America's Incredible Pizza Company team.
Because of Phoenix International Raceway's peculiar track configuration drivers either love it or hate it. Lagasse Jr. is one of the guys that loves the one-mile facility and last year he posted his career best qualifying position of seventh there. With a brand new chassis in tow, the team was anxious to get out on the track and see just what kind of performance they could produce.
The marathon day on Friday started out with an extended practice session bright and early in the morning. The America's Incredible Pizza Company team tweaked a few minor issues with the brand new race car and felt confident that the car would be good under completely different track conditions later that evening. The No. 11 Toyota Camry posted the 22nd quickest lap time with a 27.941 second run, 128.843 mph.
After a four plus hour break in the schedule, NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying took place for 47 teams. Lagasse Jr. was the fifth car to hit the track for his two qualifying laps. The No. 11 machine turned around a 22nd place starting position for the Bashas' Supermarkets 200.
As the sun set, the green flag waved for a 200-lap shoot out under the lights. Lagasse Jr. immediately went to work and made his move towards the front.
A caution flag flew within the early laps of the race enabling the team to make a quick pit stop and help Lagasse Jr. with a side bite issue. Crew chief Paul Wolfe made a pit strategy call and the guys quickly changed two tires, added fuel and made a track bar adjustment. The No. 11 gained valuable track position with the pit stop and jumped up five positions on the board to restart the race in the 14th position.
By lap 34 the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota had picked off four more positions and was sitting comfortably in the top-10.
A slight battle with rear grip started to overcome the No. 11 and another pit stop was made on lap 97 for four fresh tires, fuel and two rounds down. Lagasse Jr. was displayed in the ninth position on the restart.
For the second half of the race, Lagasse Jr. displayed consistent lap times and ran as low as the 12th position and as high as the sixth position. When a final pit stop was made under caution on lap 149, Wolfe again made the call to change just two tires, add fuel and make one last track bar adjustment. The strategic call gave the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota prime position to battle it out with the front of the pack.
Lagasse Jr. was running in the ninth position on lap 179 when an aggressive move made by a fellow competitor would send the No. 11 hard into the wall. The reality of bettering the team's season high finish of ninth quickly turned dismal. With severe damage to the race car and only 20 laps remaining in the race, the America's Incredible Pizza Company team had to end their night early. The No. 11 was loaded up on the hauler and the team would have to settle for a 32nd place finish.
"What a disappointment. It's heartbreaking that our night had to end this way," remarked a frustrated Lagasse Jr. "We had a great car and Paul made some great calls to get us running up front. I hate it for the team."
The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team will have another shot at a top-10 finish this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Teams will return for a second round of superspeedway racing on Saturday, April 25th. The Aaron's 312 will air LIVE on ABC at 2:30 pm (EST).