A Race of Firsts for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team and Lagasse Jr. at Talladega (April 25, 2009) Talladega, Ala. -- The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team walked out of Talladega with a favorite number this weekend;...
A Race of Firsts for the America's Incredible Pizza Company Race Team and Lagasse Jr. at Talladega
(April 25, 2009) Talladega, Ala. -- The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team walked out of Talladega with a favorite number this weekend; the number eight. In Lagasse Jr's first appearance in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car at the famed Talladega Superspeedway, the team scored a season high qualifying effort of eighth, posted their season high finishing position of eighth and moved up to the eighth position in the driver point standings.
After a disappointing finish at Phoenix International Raceway the week before, the America's Incredible Pizza Company race team was looking to rebound in a big way. It became apparent Thursday afternoon in practice that the team had a strong car and would become a top contender come race time on Saturday. Lagasse Jr. posted the second quickest time right off the truck in first practice and then followed that up with the 11th quickest time in final practice.
"It was important for us to bounce back after what happened at Phoenix," remarked Lagasse Jr. "That was our first fully in-house car and it ran really well. There wasn't anything anybody in our group could have done any different so you just put your heads down and come here hoping to redeem yourself."
Friday morning teams entered into Talladega with one mission to accomplish and that was qualifying. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Camry drew the first qualifying spot. Lagasse Jr. wheeled the No. 11 machine around the 2.66-mile track and put down a stellar lap of 51.880 seconds, 184.580 mph. At the end of the qualifying effort, the No. 11 garnered their highest qualifying spot of the season in eighth and Lagasse Jr. would be credited as the highest rookie qualifier.
Saturday afternoon 43-teams readied themselves for some high speed action on the banks of Talladega. The goal in everyone's mind was to stay safe and avoid the "big one". Some teams played on strategy and decided to hold back in the field at the start of the race. The America's Incredible Pizza Company team did just the opposite as Lagasse Jr. rocketed to the front of the pack and led the opening laps of the Aaron's 312. The No. 11 was credited with leading laps two, three, five and six.
As the race progressed, the battle up front continued as drivers shuffled back and forth in position. The No. 11 Camry stayed up in the lead pack until a green flag pit stop was made on lap 39 for four fresh tires, fuel and no adjustments. Lagasse Jr. rejoined the field in the 15th position and quickly made another pit stop under caution on lap 54 for two tires only and fuel. The pit strategy placed the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota in the seventh position on the restart.
Another pit stop was made under caution on lap 89 for two new tires and fuel with no adjustments. Lagasse Jr. reported in throughout the race that he was very happy with the handling of the race car the only concern was that the motor was running slightly hot. To help cool the race car, Lagasse Jr. spent time shuffling in and out of the pack throughout the 117 lap event to help bring in clean air.
Back under green conditions, Lagasse Jr. was forced to check up hard and accidentally got into the car in front of him. Fortunately the caution flag flew, enabling the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota to visit pit road for minor repairs to the hood. Restarting in the 29th position with just 22 laps to go, Lagasse Jr. quickly made his way to the front. Within nine laps, the No. 11 was displayed in the seventh position.
In the final shootout under green/white/checkered conditions, the rookie driver battled it out with the veterans and was able to bring the America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota Camry safely across the finish line in the eighth position. This marked the third top-10 of the season for the team and moved Lagasse Jr. up five spots in the driver standings to eighth. The great run also catapulted CJM Racing in the owner points and they now sit 12th, up five from last weekend.
"I'm not a plate racer at all especially not with these things. I love it now. We were just trying to gain respect and be smart today and I think we did that. Roman (Pemberton), my spotter, did a really good job up top keeping me from doing anything dumb and really just learning," explained Lagasse Jr. "These guys build great race cars. We just have to keep learning like we are and we'll be competing for top-10's every weekend."