John Salemi Makes The Biggest Improvement In NASCAR Toyota Showdown To Finish Ninth Irwindale, Calif. (Oct. 20, 2007) - John Salemi proved that starting near the back of a forty-car field shouldn't mean a finish near the back, as he raced his...
John Salemi Makes The Biggest Improvement In NASCAR Toyota Showdown To Finish Ninth
Irwindale, Calif. (Oct. 20, 2007) - John Salemi proved that starting near the back of a forty-car field shouldn't mean a finish near the back, as he raced his way from a 33rd starting position to finish ninth in the fifth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at California's Irwindale Speedway. Salemi drove his No. 63 Express Signs Chevrolet to eleventh place before the final restart, and made a couple bold moves during a green-white-checker finish to pick up two more spots in the final two laps.
Salemi, from Nashua, New Hampshire, came to California after finishing the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series fourteenth in points. With no guarantees to make the Showdown field, he went to work on Friday in practice and posted a top-ten practice lap during the second afternoon session.
Next up was qualifying, and he had to time in 26th-fastest or risk needing a provisional or having to run the last-chance race Friday night to get in the show. After time trials he was 26th, but got bumped out by another driver who had a protected spot in the starting lineup. Salemi wound up getting the last East Series provisional, locking him in the show and keeping him out of the last-chance race. His starting spot was 33rd in a field of forty cars.
"The sun was just awful when I made my qualifying run, I was just blind going into turn one on both laps," he said. "I know we lost time there because I wasn't flying in there and knowing how much room I had from the wall. I had to guess and hope I was OK when I could see again. We timed in fast enough, but we got bumped back eight spots because of the whole provisional thing. It's hard when it's one car that did it. He got locked in and bumped me back eight spots, which is a lot at this track.
"We're going to come to the front," Salemi continued. "We out-qualified a lot of cars that are now starting ahead of us. We were tenth fastest in practice so as far as running laps go, we're fine. We just have to get to the front, not lose a lap, and settle into a rhythm until the lap 100 break so we can make any adjustments we need to make. We'll keep it as clean as we can, use the help of our great crew and our great crew chief, Dale Quarterley."
The All-Star Showdown was a 250-lap run in three segments. Thirty laps into the opening leg, Salemi had already picked up enough spots to run inside the top twenty. Racing two-wide and occasionally three-wide on the half-mile track, he was fourteenth when lap 100 came and the field was brought onto pit road for a ten-minute break. With fresh tires, a full tank of gas and some chassis adjustments, he was set to go for the next hundred-lap stretch.
Halfway through the second segment, Salemi was up to eleventh place but could not break into the top ten. He completed the second segment in eleventh, made another visit to pit road for gas and tires, and lined up in that spot for the start of the final fifty laps. Again, eleventh was as high as he could run until a late-race crash set up a green-white-checker finish.
"When I saw that we were going to have a green-white-checker finish and I was lining up on the inside, I knew I had to make something happen," he said. "Dale gave me some good tips, he told me that the car in front of me was having trouble on restarts. I kept that in mind and when the green came out, he did. I just yanked the wheel left and drove by. I might have gotten into turn one a little too hot and ran the 21 car high, but I didn't wreck him. We were going for it and it paid off."
When the final dash to the checkers was over, Salemi was in ninth place, improving the most positions from the start of the race. As he got out of his car after the race, he was congratulated by his family and crew on a job well done.
"I came here to finish in the top ten," he said. "Finishing eleventh was not going to be good enough. We really needed this. With the season we had, the ups and downs, to start 33rd and finish ninth in the Toyota All-Star Showdown is incredible. I gave Dale the right information and every adjustment he called for was just what I needed. The crew worked so hard this weekend to get this car competitive. This race had the best of the best, and to finish ninth out of all those guys is great. We couldn't do it without Dale Quarterley, because he's a genius with a race car. My crew is the best from the guys on pit road to my spotter, and it all just came together to make for a real good night for everyone. We're all excited."
Salemi couldn't thank those who work behind the scenes at John Salemi Racing enough.
"We got a lot of help this year from Express Signs and Milwaukee Tools, Synergyn and Power Mist, and Mom and Dad," he said. "This was a tough year for them because they pay all the bills. They could have said that we weren't going to come here, but I convinced them that we could run in the top ten if we went. Carl Wegner built this engine for me and sent it second-day air to Quarterley's shop. We put the motor in on Thursday, and we brought the car to Mike Johnson's shop on Saturday. I have to thank Mike's team for towing us out here."