ES: Lime Rock: James Pritchard race notes

Oiled Track Spells End Of Race For James Pritchard, Jr. At Lime Rock Lime Rock, Conn. (August 18, 2007) - James Pritchard, Jr. had never wheeled a NASCAR stock car around a road course before coming to Lime Rock Park to run last Saturday's...

Oiled Track Spells End Of Race For James Pritchard, Jr. At Lime Rock

Lime Rock, Conn. (August 18, 2007) - James Pritchard, Jr. had never wheeled a NASCAR stock car around a road course before coming to Lime Rock Park to run last Saturday's Mohegan Sun 200, a NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series event. By the time he took to the track for the race, he had gotten himself up to speed and had hopes of a top-ten finish. But after another car put oil down in one of the 1.53-mile road course's critical turns, Pritchard hit it and slid into a tire barrier, ending the day for him and his No. 41 Mannings USA Chevrolet.

Coming off a career-best ninth place finish in his last race, Pritchard was confident heading into Lime Rock. Although he didn't take any training to run a very different kind of race track than he was used to, he proved to be up to speed in practice.

"I'm always optimistic going into a race, but I wasn't sure about what we'd actually get out of Lime Rock," he said. "We only have so many parts to make a car do different things at the track, and I don't know if we had everything we needed to convert it to go road racing. I got the weights set right and went to the track.

"The car actually wasn't all that bad once we got on the track. I needed seat time badly, and I thought we'd be behind by a lot, but after the second practice things were looking up. There was more in the car, and I knew I had to work on a couple sections of the track to get my lap times down even more," the Wharton, New Jersey driver continued.

He qualified 24th after using the time trial session as additional practice.

Quickly jumping into the top twenty at the race's start, Pritchard soon became familiar with the tendency of cars to put oil down on the track. It started early, with a red flag coming out just a handful of laps into the event to have the entire track cleaned. It happened again on lap 23, and this time it nearly claimed Pritchard as a victim.

"I got into someone's oil one time - Joey Logano and Bryon Chew found it too - and that blew my right rear tire," he said. "The pits were closed and I had to go around a few laps before we could come in and change it. We changed that, topped off the fuel, and checked everything else out so we were good to go from there."

Back under way, Pritchard continued learning and getting faster, running down more experienced drivers and finding where he could best make up time on the competition. He was getting into a rhythm, putting in laps, but another oil slick proved to be his undoing.

"I came up the uphill and hit the brakes to set the car to the right," he said. "There was oil on the track and I must have hit it just right because the car just went straight into the wall. I came through that turn just like I did a hundred times before that and it just took off on me."

Trapped in a tire wall, Pritchard had to get pulled out and towed to the pits. The damage was severe, and he was retired from the event. Even though the team did not get the finish it was looking for, Pritchard enjoyed road racing.

"It's a ton of fun," he said. "You have heavy braking, full-throttle acceleration, sliding around, shifting up, shifting down, bouncing the car off the rev limiter; it's a lot of fun. I love oval racing, but this is a nice break from turning left all the time."

Work immediately started on repairing the car when the team arrived home. The body was so heavily damaged that the car will make its next appearance reskinned as a Dodge Charger. The new look will make its debut on September 14th at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. The team will skip the next East Series race to make sure they're completely prepared for the NHIS race.

"We're going to work real hard over these next couple weeks to try and get me up front at Loudon," Pritchard said. "Loudon and Dover are important tracks to me. We could probably get ready for Mansfield, but I'd rather skip that and set myself up for a top ten at Loudon than thrash and get to Mansfield just to say we raced there."

-credit: jp/ajc

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Drivers Joey Logano , Bryon Chew