The America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team Battles Against the Odds to Finish 17th at Richmond (May 1, 2009) Richmond, VA - The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team headed into Richmond Friday not realizing just what was in store...
The America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team Battles Against the Odds to Finish 17th at Richmond
(May 1, 2009) Richmond, VA - The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team headed into Richmond Friday not realizing just what was in store for them. A victim of circumstance in practice sent Lagasse Jr. into a back-up car, a brake problem prior to a qualifying run sent the team back to the garage area and an early race incident made for an uphill battle during the 250-lap race. Despite the odds being stacked against them, the America's Incredible Pizza Company team forged forward and finished out the Lipton Tea 250 in the 17th position.
Lagasse Jr. saw Richmond International Raceway for the very first time Friday morning as the Nationwide Series entered the track for an all day event. Within a 24 hour time span, teams practiced, qualified and raced a 250-lap event.
The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota was posting solid laps in the first and only practice session of the morning. Lagasse Jr. was the 18th quickest car on the track when the team's fate quickly shifted. A car in front of the No. 11 began to dump oil on the race track and Lagasse Jr. slid through it causing the race car to make contact with the wall. With severe damage to the car, the team was forced to pull out the back-up . Chassis #11 was brand new and had never seen any track time.
The crew worked hard to get the car prepared for the upcoming qualifying run. Once through technical inspection, Lagasse Jr. got behind the wheel to take his two qualifying laps. Before he rolled out onto the track, it became apparent that the brakes were not working properly. Lagasse Jr. was able to push the brake pedal down to the floor. Without hesitation, the America's Incredible Pizza Company race team pushed the No. 11 back to the garage area to work on the brake problem. NASCAR allots teams five minutes to make repairs during qualifying. Unfortunately the repair work was too extensive so the team would have to rely on owner points to start the Lipton Tea 250 later that evening.
Starting from the 42nd position, the goal was to quickly maneuver through the field and gain as much track position as possible. The surge to the front would be cut short as the No. 11 got tangled up with the No. 24 and No. 12 on the backstretch on lap 14. Damage to the hood forced Lagasse Jr. down pit road three times for tires, fuel, adjustments and repairs to the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota.
Back out on the race track and running in the 34th position, Lagasse Jr. reported in a "tight center and off handling condition." Relief came at lap 67 as the No. 11 returned to pit road for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. A quick stop had Lagasse Jr. returning to the field in the 23rd position on the restart.
The car continued to be a handful as the laps progressed and the team made multiple stops to help alleviate the handling concerns. A total of six pit stops were made throughout the evening for tires, fuel and adjustments.
"We definitely were in a pretty big hole to start the race and dug our way back out of it," Lagasse Jr. remarked. "A lot of ups and downs. These guys are fun to race with and they make it easy for me to stay focused and do the best I can."
In the closing laps of the Lipton Tea 250, the America's Incredible Pizza Company race team fought their way back up into the top-20. On the final restart of the night, the No. 11 was posted in the 18th position. Lagasse Jr. was able to advance one position to bring the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota Camry home in the 17th position.
"With all that we had going on there and all that we fought today to come back to that, to rebound, is a solid day," Lagasse Jr. stated. "That's the one thing about this race team is no one on it gives up, no one on it points fingers. Let's do what we've got to do and let's get better and that's fun to be with when you take a day like today and everybody is disappointed, obviously, but can see the positives. It's a good place to be, good people to be around."
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to historic Darlington Raceway for more Friday night racing under the lights.