SORENSON AND THE DOLLAR GENERAL TEAM OVERCOME EARLY SETBACK TO FINISH SECOND AT GATEWAY MADISON, Ill. (July 19, 2010) -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series traveled to Gateway International Raceway this weekend for the first of two visits this year to...
SORENSON AND THE DOLLAR GENERAL TEAM OVERCOME EARLY SETBACK TO FINISH SECOND AT GATEWAY
MADISON, Ill. (July 19, 2010) -- The NASCAR Nationwide Series traveled to Gateway International Raceway this weekend for the first of two visits this year to the Madison, Illinois track. Reed Sorenson climbed into the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota and started the night under the lights in the 13th position. After an early race setback trapped the No. 32 a lap down to the leaders, Sorenson and the Dollar General team powered back to finish second in the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250.
The hot and steamy Saturday was a packed with two practice sessions, qualifying and the 200-lap race. As the green flag flew, Sorenson quickly went to work to move the Dollar General Toyota into the top-10. By lap 19, crew chief, Trent Owens reported to his driver that he was running three tenths of a second faster than the cars immediately ahead of him and times as fast as the leader.
As the long green-flag run continued, Sorenson worked his way into the sixth position. He reported to Owens that the car was a little too loose on entry in turns one and two. On lap 45, the caution flag was displayed for debris on the race track. Owens called him to pit road on lap 46 where the Dollar General crew serviced the No. 32 with four fresh tires, fuel, and air pressure and track bar adjustments. Problems during the pit stop cost valuable track position and Sorenson was placed in the 13th position for the restart on lap 52.
Sorenson quickly regained the positions and was in the sixth spot by lap 56. "Did we get all of the wheels on tight? I think we have a loose wheel," Sorenson asked of his crew over the radio."
The team quickly scrambled back onto pit wall. "Feel it out and bring it in if you think you have to. We are ready with four tires when you do," responded Owens.
"I'm coming now," Sorenson said. On lap 61, he drove the Dollar General Toyota back down pit road. The team changed four tires and topped off the car with fuel. The unscheduled green-flag stop was costly, rendering him in the 25th position and a lap down to the leaders. The tire specialist confirmed that it was indeed a loose right front wheel that he had felt.
Sorenson went to work trying to make up lost ground. By lap 80 he had moved into the 23rd spot and was in the coveted "Lucky Dog" position. As the long green-flag run progressed, the lead car continued to pass more cars and put them a lap down, thus transferring the Lucky Dog to each newly passed car.
The second round of pit stops would be made under green-flag conditions. On lap 120, Owens called Sorenson to pit road for four tires and fuel. As the stops cycled through, he returned to the 21st position on lap 124. He continued to pick off positions one by one and took over the 19th spot by lap 138. A much needed yellow flag was displayed on lap 143 for debris on the race track. Owens and Sorenson began to discuss their pit strategy.
"I think we should take the wave around," said Owens. "There are nine cars one lap down and six are in front of us."
"Ok," replied Sorenson. "If you think this is our best shot, let's do it."
"You are faster than those six cars," Owens added. "I have a feeling we'll be seeing another caution soon and this is the best chance to put us in a better position for the next restart."
Taking the wave around placed Sorenson in the 16th position for the restart on lap 148. Within a few laps, he moved up to the 13th spot and maintained the position until the third caution of the night was brought out for an accident in turn two.
On lap 158, Sorenson brought the No. 32 Camry to pit road for service. The Dollar General crew quickly changed four tires and added fuel. He returned the Dollar General Toyota to the 13th position for the lap 161 restart.
It didn't take long for Sorenson to drive back inside of the top-10, making the pass for eighth on lap 172.
An accident in turn two on lap 179 slowed the field once again. As teams began to scramble to decide on pit strategy, Owens had only one option for his driver. "We have to stay out," he told Sorenson. "We don't have any tires left to put on the car."
With some teams opting to remain on the track and some opting only to take two tires, the first car with fresh tires would restart in the seventh position. This provided for a good cushion as Sorenson lined up in the front row to restart from the second spot on lap 184.
As the cars behind Sorenson battled fiercely for position, he remained up front. The No. 22 car, which did have two fresh tires, made the pass for second on lap 187. The following lap, the No. 33 made hard contact with the outside wall on the backstretch and brought out the fifth caution of the night.
"Just do the best you can," Owens told his driver. "Most of these cars only took two tires. Your lap times are better than everyone and equal to the No. 60."
Sorenson replied, "Yeah, I'm just a little too loose at the beginning of the run but then it balances out. If we could just stay green long enough it would help."
"Try to add a little front brake," Owens suggested.
The field returned to green-flag racing on lap 192 with Sorenson restarting in third. As the No. 60 and No. 22 powered past the leader, Sorenson followed suit and maintained his position.
Spotter Tony Hirschman reported, "You're pulling away. They're ten back now and dicing."
On lap 195, a multi-car accident littered turn two and brought out the red flag. NASCAR officials quickly cleared the debris.
Drivers prepared for a two-lap shootout when the race resumed on lap 199. Hirschman cautioned Sorenson as he witnessed the No. 60 and No. 22 trading paint.
"Be ready to go around these guys if they wreck each other," he said.
As the field came powering out of turn four on the final lap, Hirschman instructed Sorenson, "Go low, go low, go low!"
As the melee on the front stretch began, Sorenson raced side-by-side with the leader as they sprinted to the checkered flag. Narrowly missing the win, he crossed the finish line second to claim his fifth top-five finish at Gateway in six starts.
"The Dollar General team had a long night tonight," said Sorenson. "We worked really hard to get this second-place finish. We were caught a lap down pretty much the whole race and really had to fight our way to get back. Trent Owens made a good call to take the wave around which put us in the position to work our way to the front. We were out of tires so our pit strategy was kind of laid out for us. With the number of cautions at the end, the newer tires weren't much of an advantage, which worked out for us. That last lap I just went low and hoped I could beat the No. 60 to the line. It was close. I'm glad we were able to turn the race around and finish well."
Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series teams heads to O'Reilly Raceway Park next weekend for the Kroger 200 benefiting Riley Hospital for Children.
-source: braun racing