Testing Pays Off For John Salemi At South Boston South Boston, Va. (May 31, 2008) - John Salemi's missing out on qualifying for the last NASCAR Camping World East Series race set about a chain of events that ended two weeks later with a top-five...
Testing Pays Off For John Salemi At South Boston
South Boston, Va. (May 31, 2008) - John Salemi's missing out on qualifying for the last NASCAR Camping World East Series race set about a chain of events that ended two weeks later with a top-five qualifying effort at the next race. The race started out even better with Salemi putting his No. 63 Chevrolet in second place for the first 28 laps of the feature. Things took a turn for the worse after that, with Salemi suffering from electrical problems and some on-track misfortunes knocking him down to 21st place at the end of 155 laps.
The Iowa disappointment left the John Salemi Racing team scratching their heads, since their car was quite a bit slower than it had been at the same track one year before. Salemi discussed the problem with crew chief Dale Quarterley, and they started going through the car when they got back home.
"The team came to the conclusion that we might have a problem with the rear end," he explained. "We checked it out and I think we had a broken locker."
With a new rear end installed, the next step was to go testing. Coming down to South Boston Speedway a week and a day before the East Series race there, the team spent many laps getting the car up to speed and getting happy with its progress. Returning to the track for the actual event, Salemi posted good times in practice but opened many eyes with a fourth-place qualifying effort.
"The time we posted in qualifying was the time we ran here when we made a qualifying run when we tested," he said. "That qualifying lap didn't surprise us at all. We didn't know that everybody else here was going to run what they ran. Testing was the difference here. If we could test at every track, we could be like this everywhere we run."
Salemi's best-yet time trial performance reflected well on the entire team.
"This team is great," he said. "When we left Iowa we weren't feeling down, we just wanted to fix what was wrong with the car. When we were here testing, we knew we were on to something. It's not a winning car yet, but I think we can put ourselves in position where we could take a win at the end. We could be there at the end if we don't abuse the car."
Salemi was even more impressive when the race started. At the start, he moved all the way from fourth to second place, and he held that spot through a pair of restarts before giving up the spot and falling into third. After a lap 39 restart, he had fallen to fourth and into the clutches of less and less patient drivers. This culminated with a lap 87 incident where two cars spun in front of him. Salemi had slowed to avoid the incident, but those behind him weren't as on the ball. This was not be the only time this would happen.
"Every time we slowed down for a wreck, whoever was behind us didn't slow down," he said. "It happened over and over, it was like nobody else was paying attention to what was going on out there. We got turned around but we didn't quit, we'd get right back in it and we got all the way back up to twelfth."
Trying to salvage a top-ten finish out of the night, trouble struck with just eleven laps to go.
"Something shorted out in the electrical system and the car died. I shut all the switches off and the car started back up, but we'd already fallen off the lead lap," he said.
He left South Boston with a battered car and a 21st place finish.
"I'm disappointed because everyone worked so hard, they deserved better than this," he said. "The car's hurt pretty bad. We were just trying to hang in there and we had a good car, it was a solid second-place car that just got run over by guys behind us who were in a hurry to get to the front. I don't think I was holding anybody up since I was on the bumper of the guy in front of me."
It's just a few days' worth of turnaround before Salemi heads for the next Camping World East Series race, which will be at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International's 2.45-mile road course. He's determined to be there no matter how much work will be involved.
"We're going to fix it and we will come back, I don't care if the thing's all wrapped up in duct tape because underneath it's a real good car," he said. "We showed that we can qualify up front and run up front. The only reason we didn't finish up front is because other drivers took that away from us. But I'm not going to get hung up on it, I'm going to fix the car and take it to Watkins Glen."