MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2008) — Spring was officially suspended in Virginia this past weekend after the mercury fell 40 degrees between Friday’s high of 79 and Saturday’s race. Biting cold and rain radically changed conditions at Martinsville Speedway as Travis Kvapil entered Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race. Kvapil started on row seven after qualifying 14th earlier in the day. Though unsure of what he had under him at times, Kvapil deftly piloted his Zaxby’s Ford F-150, and with good pit strategy finished seventh, a solid top-10 effort.
By lap 32 Kvapil told crew chief Chad Norris that it felt like the truck was “rolling around the center.” However, the short nature of the race (only 250 laps and 131.5 miles) and lack of time during pit stops on the half-mile track left the F-150 crew few options. If an opportunity came up they would make adjustments but they didn’t feel that risking more track position was the way to get the Zaxby’s F-150 out of the hole.
The first of 13 cautions occurred on lap 40 giving Kvapil and crew the opportunity they desperately needed. However, after taking four tires, wedge and air pressure adjustments Kvapil lost 10 more positions and exited pit road in 28th position since several teams elected to remain on track. The changes did little to solve his problems. “It just feels like the tires aren’t there,” Kvapil told a puzzled Norris.
After another caution for debris on lap 50, Kvapil settled into a position in the mid 20’s when the green came back out. The third yellow flag of the day came following a spinout by the No. 85. Kvapil used the pause to confer with Norris about their vehicle’s lack of balance, passing acceleration and the absence of any second groove in which to run. “I feel like we actually roll through fine… but I can’t pass,” said Kvapil.
Kvapil and Norris continued to develop pit strategies for the remainder of the race and exploited a multitude of caution situations. But tires, track bar adjustments and wedge seemed all in vain. Concerns about fuel were not an issue due to the high caution count and Kvapil’s ability to conserve gas.
By lap 100 the Zaxby’s Ford F-150 was plenty free but had dropped to 30th position. Kvapil called the situation “frustrating” for both himself and his crew. When Norris asked what he wanted to do about it Kvapil responded, “I wouldn’t even know what to tell you to do.”
The tide wouldn’t turn until lap 127 when Norris’ pit strategy finally paid off. When the green flag waved again on lap 134 Kvapil found himself in 14th position, a gain of 12 spots since many teams came in for their final pit stop. With 75 laps to go Kvapil was running behind teammate Erik Darnell in 10th place.
Following several more cautions and two red flags it all came down to a green, white, checker finale in which third-place Kyle Busch took out second-place Johnny Benson to allow all to move up the ranks. Kvapil avoided the growing wreckage to take seventh place in his Zaxby’s F-150.
“We had a good strategy day with our Zaxby’s Ford,” Kvapil said. “It seemed like we struggled a little bit all weekend. It had a lot of speed in it and it was just as good as anybody’s, but I just couldn’t pass. It seemed like we were down on horsepower a little bit and we just made some good calls in the pits. We got our tires and fuel early and just stayed out of trouble and stayed on track. When other guys ran out of gas, spun out, wrecked or pitted, we just kept chugging along and got a seventh-place finish out of it, so I’m pretty happy. I didn’t think we were probably gonna run that great as we started the day, but we kept it out of trouble, kept our nose clean and got a good result.”
The top-10 finish helped the No. 09 Zaxby’s team move up five positions in the owners’ points to 14th. The next race will be Saturday, April 26 at Kansas Speedway with Bobby East behind the wheel. The race will be televised live on SPEED at 6 p.m. (EDT).
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 13 motorsports teams. Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.