Top-10 Run Cut Short for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Team at Gateway (July 18, 2009) Madison, Ill. & ...
Top-10 Run Cut Short for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Team at Gateway
(July 18, 2009) Madison, Ill. The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team was looking to repeat history at Gateway International Raceway over the weekend. They had returned to the site of their highest finishing position of third since the team moved over into the Nationwide Series. It looked like the team was poised to do just that until an on-track altercation at the halfway point of the race sent the No. 11 car to the garage with terminal damage.
The race weekend kicked off with a visit to the St. Louis America's Incredible Pizza Company store where Lagasse Jr. had an opportunity to meet with race fans and warm up his skills at the go-kart track. In true racing fashion, the No. 11 driver fended off his opponents and took first place at the go-kart track. While the win was gratifying, the desire to win at the 1.25-mile facility just down the road was the ultimate goal.
The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team got right to work as they arrived at the track Friday afternoon. Following technical inspection, 49 cars went out for two practice sessions. The No. 11 Toyota Camry would have a strong showing right from the start and post the ninth quickest time, 33.792 seconds, in the opening session.
After a late night garage closing, teams returned to the track Saturday afternoon for qualifying and a 200-lap shootout under the lights. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota Camry went out 11th for two qualifying laps and was able to turn around a solid lap. Lagasse Jr. would find himself starting the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 in the 19th position.
Later that evening, 43-cars lined up on pit road to get ready for racing action. The weather was perfect and the fans were on their feet. The green flag waved and the charge to the front began.
The America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota Camry started off a little tight center and off but as the green flag laps continued the handling began to turn itself around. Lagasse Jr. reported in on lap 25 that the car was pretty neutral and the times displayed on the scoring board would compliment that statement. The No. 11 machine had moved up into the 10th position and was posting the fastest lap times out on the race track.
A long green flag run would continue causing teams to make green flag pit stops around lap 58 of the race. Great fuel mileage would allow the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota to stay out on track a few additional laps. Lagasse Jr. finally wheeled the No. 11 down pit road on lap 64 for tires and fuel.
Back out on the track, the No. 11 entry continued to be a strong contender running lap times consistent with the leaders. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota was running in the ninth position at lap 74 of the 200-lap event.
Another pit stop was made on lap 87, this time for repairs to the right front fender and two right side tires. Lagasse Jr. and a fellow driver, Steve Wallace, collided on lap 85 causing the fender to cave in. With minimal repairs needed, the No. 11 returned to the track in the 15th position.
Just seven laps later another caution flag flew and the majority of the field headed down pit road. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota stayed out on the track and was credited with the fourth position on the restart.
The fate of the team was determined at the halfway point of the race. On lap 100, the No. 11 and No. 62 got intertwined and caused severe damage to the race car. Upon further examination it was determined that the car could not be repaired and Lagasse Jr. would not return to the track. The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team would settle for a 33rd place finish.
"We were going to get America's Incredible Pizza Company the run they deserved," Lagasse Jr. remarked. "I had a great race car in long runs -- a little loose getting going. I just got run over. I hate it this early in the race. There's plenty of racing left. It's very frustrating. It's just a bad way to end a good night."
The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team will have an opportunity to redeem themselves next Saturday night at O'Reilly Raceway Park. The race will air live on ESPN at 8:00 pm (EST).