Bakersfield doubleheader an education for Brandon Whitt. Mesa Marin short-track races provide valuable learning experience for young racer. BAKERSFIELD, California (March 25, 2003) -- For third-generation racer Brandon Whitt and his Clean Line...
Bakersfield doubleheader an education for Brandon Whitt.
Mesa Marin short-track races provide valuable learning experience for young racer.
BAKERSFIELD, California (March 25, 2003) -- For third-generation racer Brandon Whitt and his Clean Line Motorsports team, their first-ever NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series doubleheader promised to be a long and challenging one.
The final tally sheet for both events looked similar. Brandon started 14th and finished 21st in the StarNursery.com 200 Southwest Series event, and then in Sunday's Lucas Oil 250 Craftsman Truck Series race he started 15th and finished 19th. But as is always the case in racing, the numbers do not tell the whole story.
In Saturday's practice sessions, Brandon spent most of his time in the top five in lap times in his No. 28 Moen Faucets/Victory Circle/Simpson Race Products Pontiac Grand Prix Southwest Series car and a strong thirteenth in his new No. 38 IPS/In-Sink-Erator/Simpson GS3 Chevrolet Craftsman Truck - the latter accomplished with only a single full day of practice in the new equipment under his belt. Race conditions would prove that his practice times were no fluke.
Saturday night's StarNursery.com 200 saw Brandon muscle his way to the front thanks to aggressive, smart driving, sharp pit strategy from crew chief Jerry Pitts, and lightning pit stops from his over-the-wall gang. As the race wound down towards its final laps, Brandon had stormed his way up through the pack and was making a move for fifth place when the No. 28's motor expired, bringing an early end to his impressive drive.
"It was a pretty unfortunate deal," remarked Brandon. "We went from the back to the front a couple of times, but we were making up pretty good ground when it let go. Our team worked really hard this weekend and put together a great car, and it's unfortunate to be let down like this."
The crew quickly diagnosed the cause of the motor problems that cut short Brandon's strong run. "There was so much rubber buildup between the cars and the trucks that it kept loading up on the front end and kicked off the oil drive belt," explained Dan Whitt.
Sunday dawned with fresh hope for success. Brandon started a solid 15th among a field of some of NASCAR's best, including David Starr, Dennis Setzer, and Ted Musgrave with the only goals being to qualify for and finish the race, finish on the lead lap, and accumulate invaluable seat time. Brandon stayed out of trouble and drove a patient race, and at one point was running in the top five. Following an extra pit stop under the green flag due to a pit miscue, Brandon fell two laps down to the leaders, but the young Craftsman Truck Series newcomer ended up with a solid 19th-place finish in his debut outing.
"We had a good race today," Brandon said. "We never had a handling problem all day long. I learned a tremendous amount out there, particularly tire conservation. All of these drivers are so great to race with. I'm looking forward to doing this again."
Overall, the Clean Line Motorsports team came away from Mesa Marin Raceway encouraged by their progress and excited by the success of their new program. Equally as important, Brandon Whitt left the Bakersfield track with more laps to his credit and more vital experience to apply to his future races. Brandon is especially anxious to see how his experience in the StarNursery.com Saturday night will compare to the two upcoming Southwest Series races this summer, when higher temperatures will affect the track's surface. "The sealer stayed on the bottom, which was good," he observed. "It'll be interesting to see how the track performs when we come back in the summer and it's nice and warm. I'm looking forward to coming back to Mesa and hopefully we'll turn our luck around."
The next scheduled race for Brandon and Clean Line Motorsports is the Coors Lite 125 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series event at Cajon Speedway on April 6th.