Don Wagner Shakes Off Late-Race Incident To Finish Waterford Fourteenth (Waterford, Conn. - July 23, 2005) - It was a wild night at Waterford Speedbowl for the Town Fair Tire 150, the fifth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race...
Don Wagner Shakes Off Late-Race Incident To Finish Waterford Fourteenth
(Waterford, Conn. - July 23, 2005) - It was a wild night at Waterford Speedbowl for the Town Fair Tire 150, the fifth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race of the 2005 season. For James Pritchard Motorsports and driver Don Wagner, it was their third race of the year with their No. 41 Mannings USA/Snacketizers Chevrolet. Wagner, for the second straight race, spent significant time in the top ten before being caught up in an incident that forced him to pit, though he came back to finish on the lead lap in fourteenth.
Wagner, making his third start at the 3/8ths mile shoreline oval, posted the 18th fastest time in practice, but improved to fifteenth in qualifying. This was an impound race, meaning few changes could be made to the cars once qualifying was completed.
"You've got to go at things differently because they impound the cars after qualifying," Wagner said. "My experience at tracks close to the ocean is that they tighten up quite a bit when the sun goes down, so we weren't really concerned with our times during practice. We wanted to make sure the car was comfortable, driveable, anticipating what we think will happen in the evening. Mark [Durgin, crew chief] made some good calls and we got the car so it drives really well, and hopefully we can put it on cruise control to the front when they drop the green for the race."
Under nearly ideal weather, the race began in front of a large audience and SpeedTV's television cameras. Through many cautions, Wagner picked up positions along the way until he was tenth on lap 120 of 150. But on a lap 127 restart, he became a victim. Second-place starter Ryan Moore had transmission trouble and was slow entering the backstretch. Mike Johnson had nowhere to go and hit him, and Wagner was also involved, not being able to duck low to avoid the two slow cars.
"Something happened in the top row on one restart when we were running tenth and we got banged up a little bit," he said. "We had to pit and change a left rear tire and bang out some of the sheet metal."
Returning to the track at the tail of the lead lap, Wagner had just nineteen laps left to get back to where he was, a chore made more difficult as one more yellow came out late and took more racing laps away. He wound up fourteenth, equaling his best performance at the track which came in 2003.
"We got into the top ten and ran there for a little while, till the accident," he said after the race. "But when the car got banged up a little bit, the handling wasn't there anymore - something got messed up in the front suspension. But we still moved up a few spots before the end and ended up in the top fifteen. We've got some bodywork to do, but you have to expect that coming to the Waterford Speedbowl. When stuff happens up front it ends up costing people further back every time."
Wagner offered his take on the new race procedures, which replaced Nextel Cup-style restarts (lead lap cars on the outside lane with any lapped cars lining up inside) with double-file restarts throughout the race.
"Double-file restarts are fun and they really shuffled the field around," he said. "All I saw tonight was good, hard racing. I have no problem with double-file restarts. Maybe they should do something to get the lapped cars behind lead-lap cars sooner, maybe with fifty laps to go, but I think going to double-file restarts was a great move by NASCAR."
The Waterford race can be seen on SpeedTV at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, July 29th. The next race for James Pritchard Motorsports will be on Wednesday, August 10th, at Stafford Motor Speedway, also in Connecticut.