Matt Kobyluck Scores Second Place Finish In NASCAR All-Star Showdown (Irwindale, Calif. - Nov. 13, 2004) - Uncasville, Connecticut's Matt Kobyluck made the most of his trip across the country with his No. 40 Mohegan Sun Racing team, rebounding...
Matt Kobyluck Scores Second Place Finish In NASCAR All-Star Showdown
(Irwindale, Calif. - Nov. 13, 2004) - Uncasville, Connecticut's Matt Kobyluck made the most of his trip across the country with his No. 40 Mohegan Sun Racing team, rebounding from a disappointing twelfth place finish in last year's Toyota NASCAR All-Star Showdown to place second in this year's edition, held at the half-mile Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in front of a live SpeedTV television audience.
With lessons learned from last year, Kobyluck brought his tried and proven short-track car to the track rather than a speedway car, and found that to be a smart move. Practice found him twelfth fastest, but in the final session before the qualifying races, the rear end broke on the car and the crew had to scramble to replace the rear axle. The operation was a success, but in that qualifying race Kobyluck found the car loose with brake problems. He finished thirteenth, giving him the 26th starting position for Saturday night's feature event.
"We were having trouble getting the nose to cut through the corner in practice, and we made some changes and now it cuts through the corner real well now," he said. "It was just too free all the way around, though. It was a good fifty-lap test session, we got to do a long run, and as free as it was all around the track I just had to baby it along and keep it out of the wall. The rear end problems during practice and that cost us practice time that we really needed. We went out for this race after making wholesale changes and it definitely responded to what we did. We just have to get a little more side bite and we'll be good."
Addressing the brake problems took the Mohegan Sun Racing crew all day Saturday to fix, but they answered the bell when it came to being race time.
Starting far in the back, it took Kobyluck thirty laps to get into the top fifteen. But he was happy with how the car was working after the brake problems were fixed. He was tenth twenty laps later, and was up to seventh by the time the lap 100 break arose.
"We had a really good car and I love having a good car because I can get up on the wheel and drive the thing hard," he said. "That's the kind of car I had tonight. The first hundred laps was all about getting into the top ten. I was able to do that pretty easily, I was picking cars off to the point where I was fifteenth forty laps in, and I kept going. The car was a little tight, but it was better to have a tight car tonight than it was to have a free car because I could really stand on it getting up off the corner and not drift up to the wall."
At the break, which signaled the end of the first hundred laps and leaving fifty left to run, Kobyluck's team put on new tires and installed a spring rubber from the right rear spring to try and loosen the car up. The first eight cars were inverted, leaving him second for when the race restarted.
The green flew on lap 101 and Kobyluck, starting on the outside pole, dove under Mike Johnson in an attempt to take the lead. Also in the mix was Austin Cameron, who wound up as the middle car in a three-wide situation. Kobyluck and Cameron made contact, sending Cameron spinning in turn two.
"I hate it like heck for it to happen with Austin," Kobyluck said. "He's an aggressive guy and he was going after the same piece of real estate I was. When we came into that corner it was Mike Johnson, Austin, and me. I went down to the bottom before Austin went down to the bottom. When he went down to the bottom and we got to the middle of the corner, we were both trying to use the same piece of real estate and he ended up spinning off my nose. It was nothing intentional on my part, it was just a racing deal. I was already on the bottom of the racetrack, there was nothing more I could do to avoid the contact. If I could have done anything to avoid him, I would have, but I was already on the bottom of the racetrack with my brakes locked up, and there was nothing I could do."
Kobyluck continued to run in second after the restart, and had plenty of opportunities to race Johnson for the lead as there were five restarts in the final fifty laps.
"My best shot at Mike Johnson was on the restarts," he said. "If I could have got him, that was the only time I would have got him. Once we got running and got three or four laps of green, he'd be able to stay in front of me and my car was a little too tight in the middle and I had to run in his tire tracks. I tried going high, going low, running in the middle trying to gain ground but I couldn't gain on him."
His attention now focused on keeping second place from Scott Lynch, Kobyluck had to withstand one more close call as Lynch pushed too hard coming off turn four to take the white flag, banging into Kobyluck's driver-side door and spinning out of contention. Kobyluck held on to finish second.
"We ended up second, and that's fortunate for us," he said. "We had a tough weekend. We weren't that great at the end of the day Thursday, then come Friday we still weren't great and then we broke the rear end at the end of that practice session. During the qualifying race, the rear brakes were dragging. We ran around like a pile of junk during the qualifying race, but we did have some positives to take from that because the changes we made before the qualifying race worked well. The car responded well to those, so we had something to build on there. The brakes were fixed so they weren't dragging, and then we just had to work to get the car even better. Right from the drop of the green the car was so much better and I could finally showcase what I was capable of."