John Salemi Recovers From Fire, Accident To Finish Twelfth in East Series Opener Greenville, S.C. (April 19, 2008) - For even the best race teams, the first outing of the season rarely goes smoothly. For John Salemi Racing, entering the NASCAR...
John Salemi Recovers From Fire, Accident To Finish Twelfth in East Series Opener
Greenville, S.C. (April 19, 2008) - For even the best race teams, the first outing of the season rarely goes smoothly. For John Salemi Racing, entering the NASCAR Camping World East Series the most-prepared as ever, Greenville-Pickens Speedway still left the team having to scramble to make repairs after a brief fire erupted in the car during practice. Those repairs were made successfully, and Salemi qualified for the American Revolution 150 where he overcame an early accident to finish on the lead lap in twelfth position.
Salemi, entering his fourth full season of East Series racing, had posted the 22nd fastest lap in practice. Speed, though, was the last thing on his mind as an oil line burst late in the session, causing a brief fire underneath his No. 63 KustomVinyl.com/Middlesex Gases Chevrolet. His crew, led by Dale Quarterley, quickly set to replacing the hose and cleaning up the spilled oil while making sure nothing else was damaged. The repairs were complete in time for Salemi to take his scheduled place in the qualifying order, and he turned the thirteenth-fastest lap in time trials.
"I've got a great bunch of guys," said the Nashua, New Hampshire driver before the race. "Dale Quarterley and the rest of the guys on the crew made it happen and got us back in shape to qualify. We would have been happy just making the race. Dale told me to go out there and run it as hard as I can, and I might have run it a little too hard and lost some time, but to start thirteenth, after being on fire in practice, it's a great day so far."
The 150-lap feature event was only twelve laps old when Salemi was hit from behind entering the first turn, causing him to spin. Bryon Chew came upon Salemi's spun car and could not avoid it, ending Chew's night while leaving Salemi with damage to the right side of his car.
"We just wound up facing the wrong way, and it wasn't because of anything I did," he explained. "I got hit right directly from behind and wound up spinning, and I feel bad that Bryon Chew got involved and wound up wrecked pretty badly as a result. It was early in the race, and I don't know if somebody was impatient or what, but we got a tap and turned around and then Bryon had nowhere to go."
He pitted to have the crew check out the car and returned to the race deep in the field, but still on the lead lap. The car had lost its handle, though, and its driver had his work cut out for him as he tried to keep his loose race car under him through the balance of the event. A handful of pit stops to adjust on the car were made, but the loose condition never completely went away. Salemi worked with what he had, though, and made it back to twelfth position at the end of 150 laps.
"This car was so hard to drive," he said. "It was so loose that I could spin the rear tires at the start-finish line. I pedaled it the whole race and spent a lot of time turning right to turn left. I'm not really happy with a twelfth-place finish, but I think we were lucky to be able to finish twelfth.
"I fought hard all race just because it's what the guys on the crew deserve," Salemi continued. "They fought hard all day to get this car going and then getting it fixed after practice. Everybody on this racing team was determined to not quit at that point. We knocked off a good lap in qualifying and fought the whole race to end up in twelfth. We did some damage to the car that we'll have to fix, but we've got time to fix it. We're off to a better start than last year."
Up next for Salemi is the annual east/west combination race that brings together the two Camping World Series for a 200-lap race at Iowa Speedway. Salemi finished twelfth at Iowa last year, the fourth best of East Series competitors, and expects to do even better with his new car.
"I think we've got something here with this car," he said. "It qualified well and wasn't bad in the race. Dale and I will sit down with our notes, figure out what we need to do to get even better, and we'll go to Iowa. That's a track we're very good at, and I'm confident that we can have a good run there."