St. Louis II: Reed Sorenson race report



MADISON, Ill. (October 25, 2010) -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series traveled to Gateway International Raceway (GIR) this weekend for the series' historic final visit to the Madison, Ill. track. With a proven track record at the 1.25-mile raceway, Reed Sorenson and the No. 32 team were confident as they entered the weekend. While the third-fastest car on the speed charts in final practice, the No. 32 Toyota made contact with the outside wall in turn three and the team was forced to unload the back up. Sorenson and the Dollar General team fought relentlessly throughout the afternoon, battling in the closing laps for the win before taking the checkered flag in the sixth position.

Unable to make any laps before Friday's final practice session was over, the team headed into Saturday's qualifying not knowing what to expect. Sorenson turned a solid qualifying lap, reporting to crew chief, Trent Owens, that the car's handling was just a little tight. The 33.557-second lap placed him in the 10th position to start the 5-Hour Energy 250. When the green flag dropped on the Saturday afternoon event at GIR, Sorenson quickly moved forward through the field. By lap five, he was running in the fifth position. As he circled the track, he was able to give Owens feedback on the car's handling.

"The front end is hitting both springs too hard," Sorenson commented over the radio. "I'm bouncing all over the place. It feels like the car is sitting up too high and has no front grip."

As the green-flag racing continued, he continued to battle for position, slipping back to the 10th spot by lap 31.

"It feels like the left front is hitting a little harder than the right front," Sorenson updated Owens. "The car's balance is tightening up. It gets a lot tighter as we go."

On lap 37, Owens told his driver that they were looking to pit on lap 57.

"Ok," replied Sorenson. "It's going to be close. We might blow the right front tire before then."

The first caution of the day came on lap 47, giving the No. 32 team the opportunity they needed to come to pit road. On lap 48, Owens called his driver in and ordered a number of adjustments by the Dollar General crew. The team quickly changed four tires, made air pressure and wedge adjustments, removed two spring rubbers from the left front and put one spring rubber into the right rear in an effort to improve the car's handling.

Packed with fuel, Sorenson returned to the race track and lined the Dollar General Toyota up in the 21st position for the restart on lap 52. He quickly drove into the top-15 by lap 56 but reported to Owens that the car's handling remained tight and that the front end was continuing to bounce.

"We started out about 20% better than the first run, but it went back to as bad as it was before," Sorenson told the team on lap 61. Despite the challenges, he advanced up to the 12th spot.

"I can get through turns one and two ok, but three and four feel pretty rough," he told Owens. "Do we have any other ideas for adjustments?"

"I'm working on that now," Owens reassured him.

An accident in turn two brought out the next yellow flag on lap 75, providing the Dollar General team the needed opportunity to return to pit road for additional adjustments. Owens called for a four-tire stop, a spring rubber to be removed from the left rear and track bar and wedge adjustments. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 80 with the No. 32 Camry in the 16th position. Sorenson drove inside the top-10 before the caution flag was displayed only three laps later when the No. 62 made contact with the outside wall between turns three and four.

"That was a lot better that time," he told Owens. "We just need more."

Owens called him back to pit road when it opened on lap 83. As Sorenson drove the Dollar General Toyota to his pit stall, they discussed the option of taking tires or just making adjustments.

"Leave this set of tires on the car," Owens ordered the crew. "I want one round of wedge out of the left rear and adjust the right front shock."

When the race resumed on lap 87, the Dollar General Toyota was in the 25th position. Sorenson quickly drove up through the field and was running inside the top-15 by lap 94. Contact with another car sent the No. 88 spinning through turns three and four and brought out the fourth caution of the afternoon.

On lap 96, Owens called his driver to pit road for service. The Dollar General crew quickly changed four tires, made an air pressure adjustment, went two rounds up on the track bar, put a spring rubber into the right rear and packed the car with fuel before sending the Camry back to the track to restart from the 20th spot on lap 101.

Sorenson quickly went to work, picking off positions and overtaking 13th before a multicar crash left the front stretch littered with wreckage. NASCAR officials halted the field with the red flag as crews worked to clean up the debris.

"The car doesn't feel like it sits any higher now than the primary car did," Sorenson told the team as he sat parked on the track. "Now it just feels like it is hitting the springs hard."

In just over 20 minutes, NASCAR displayed the yellow flag and the cars began to circle the track once again. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 108 with the Dollar General Toyota restarting in the 13th position. Sorenson picked off positions, one by one, moving inside the top-10 by lap 112 and up to the sixth spot by lap 138. Throughout the green-flag run, it was discovered that Sorenson was unable to be heard by the team over the radio. He was forced to communicate using hand signals for the remainder of the race.

On lap 144, the leaders began to come to pit road for green-flag stops. On a slightly different pit cycle, Sorenson took over the lead on lap 157. He remained there until coming to pit road for fresh tires and adjustments on lap 161. The Dollar General team quickly changed the four tires, added fuel, made a track bar adjustment and put another spring rubber into the right rear. As the field cycled through the green-flag stops, the Dollar General Toyota was running in the fifth position on lap 191 when the caution flag was displayed once again.

With no remaining sets of fresh tires, Owens told his driver that they would not be pitting. The leaders came to pit road, putting the Dollar General Toyota at the front of the field for the restart on lap 197. In a final, mad dash for the checkered flag, Sorenson battled fiercely to retain the lead. Racing fender to fender with teammate, Jason Leffler, and other drivers with fresher tires, Sorenson wrestled his way around the track, almost wrecking in the turns. Shuffled back, he took the checkered flag in the sixth position.

"I really thought we had a chance there," Sorenson said as he caught his breath after the race. "This back-up car didn't see the track until our qualifying lap this morning. After qualifying 10th, I thought we'd be good but we fought a bad front-end bounce and a tight condition all race. The Dollar General guys never gave up and made a ton of adjustments every time we had the chance to get to pit road. I couldn't talk to the team at least the last 50 laps or so because something was wrong with my radio. Those last four laps I just drove it as hard as I could, but I couldn't be as aggressive as I needed to be to hold the lead because of our older tires. It was a long and challenging day but everyone on this team fought hard for this top-10."

Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series teams will enjoy a weekend off before travelling to Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks.

-source: braun racing

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Drivers Jason Leffler , Trent Owens , Reed Sorenson