Long Week Culminates In Top Ten For John Salemi Stafford Springs, Conn. (June 8, 2007) - John Salemi left last Saturday's NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race with a wrecked car after a last-lap accident at South Boston...
Long Week Culminates In Top Ten For John Salemi
Stafford Springs, Conn. (June 8, 2007) - John Salemi left last Saturday's NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race with a wrecked car after a last-lap accident at South Boston Speedway. To get that car repaired in time to race Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway meant a lot of sacrifice, a lot of work, and very little sleep, but all that effort paid off as the Nashua, New Hampshire driver rebounded with a ninth-place lead-lap finish at Stafford.
Salemi didn't go home after leaving South Boston, instead going to Mooresville, North Carolina, the heart of stock car country, to find someone to fix the nose of his No. 63 Chevrolet. He found that someone on Monday and delivered the car.
"We wound up getting Charlie Brunnhoelzl to put a nose on the car, and he had it done in two days," he said. "I flew back home with Steve, my spotter, and went to work Tuesday. On Wednesday I flew back down with my dad to pick up the truck and trailer. I drove all the way through the night Wednesday night to get home and got to Dale Quarterley's shop around noon on Thursday. He stayed up all night working on the car while I turned in around 1:30 in the morning. At that point I hadn't slept in days. In twelve hours, he got the car ready to race. We still had to put in some of the ductwork when we got here, but still it's a good race car ready to go."
Just getting a working car to the track in six days was an achievement.
"You want to race so badly that you're willing to sacrifice so much, and this was a big sacrifice," Salemi said. "Charlie took care of us because he knew how important it was for us to get to Stafford. It's tough being from New Hampshire when all the work on these cars usually gets done down south. We don't have the prettiest car here but it's a fast car. We're going to work hard at this. We want to be a team that belongs in this series and we're ready to put in the work that requires."
It was not a pretty car, with an orange front bumper and black primered hood and front fenders, but it qualified 22nd fastest and looked to be in good shape for the race. Salemi himself was a little banged up as well, with his severely cutting his right hand while loading the trailer in North Carolina. He wore a bandage during practice and the race and suffered no ill effects.
Salemi came close to falling off the lead lap during the opening run of the race, but was saved by caution on lap 32. Under that caution, he made a pit stop for a chassis adjustment and was set to run to the finish.
"I started taking it a little easy and that almost cost us as the leaders got real close to putting me a lap down near the beginning, but caution came out and we used that opportunity to come in and make an adjustment to free up the car. When we came back out, the car was much more driveable and I could get underneath people," he said.
The key to the race was a long green-flag run that began with a lap 77 restart and ended with caution on lap 119 of 150. While many cars were lapped during this stretch, Salemi raced his way towards the top ten with Quarterley giving him pointers all the way.
"He had me try a lot of different lines and it's so helpful to have that expertise, because I can't see what's working and what's not from where I'm sitting. His experience got us to where we eventually got, even if he had to harp on me over the radio," he explained. "This car really never changed through that long green-flag run. I only slipped back because I was trying to save what we had. At the end, we were just as fast as a lot of guys in front of us at that point. Dale got on the radio and said it was time to be a race car driver, and that's what I did. I gave it all that the car had."
After the field was tightened up with a pair of late cautions, Salemi took advantage to move into the top ten and finished ninth with very little new damage to fix.
"We finished ninth, and finishing in the top ten is real nice after not finishing the week before," he said. "It's such a reward to come here and an honor to drive this car with the bunch of guys that we have. Dale got zero sleep and put this car together in a day, and we came here and finished in the top ten. It's almost like a win for us. We didn't damage the car at all aside from a few donuts, so we'll take it to New Hampshire and make it look nice for the New England 125 because that's a big race for us and our sponsors."
The Stafford race was taped by SpeedTV and will be broadcast at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 20th.
John Salemi Racing competes with the support of Milwaukee Tools, Express Signs, and Design Engineering's Radiator Relief. 2007 marketing and sponsorship opportunities are still available, including for the next race, the New England 125 at New Hampshire International Speedway on June 29. That race is held on the Friday of the track's Nextel Cup weekend after NASCAR Nextel Cup Series qualifying, with green flag expected at 5:10 p.m.