We went to Dover with some high hopes. After our small success at Martinsville, we thought the Monster Mile would be a good track for us. As it turns out, it wasn’t. There’s no one to blame as to why – it was a conglomeration of problems that spoiled our weekend, and I certainly had a part in that.
I was reminded during my flight home of something Russell Wilson spoke about during the Seahawks Super Bowl winning season a few years ago. They didn’t win every game that year. In fact, a couple times, despite the successes of their defense, their offense struggled. They went on to win 13 games that year, and in reflection Russell stated, “sometimes, just like in baseball, you have days where you go 0-4.”
Martins Motorsports went 0-4 this past weekend in Dover.
I had been to Dover before, which allowed us to mock up pretty quickly for a qualifying run early in the first practice session. That’s where our problems started. We bottomed the truck out HARD and it took us a little while to figure out what the problem was. Eventually after clearing it up, first practice was over. We were slow, the truck was a handful, and we only had one more practice to try to fix it. We didn’t. The truck never felt like it was IN the racetrack. It was tight in the middle of the corner, sliding the front end, but completely loose as I tried to apply the throttle.
As Kevin Eagle and I discussed it that night, we settled on the idea that it could be a shock problem, and we crossed our fingers that we could get a qualifying session in so we could just use it like an extra practice. Mother Nature didn’t grant us that opportunity. Qualifying was rained out and we wound up starting at the back of the grid due to our practice time.
The race didn’t get much better. It was one of the longest, toughest races I’ve ever run. We nearly wrecked the truck 5 or 6 separate times. Kevin tried every adjustment he could make, but nothing helped. We finished the race in 24th place, which felt like a small victory given how bad we had struggled all weekend. It certainly was a better finish than we deserved.
I’m disappointed in myself. I felt like I never got in a good rhythm all weekend. Sure, the handling of the truck affected that, but it’s my job as a driver to help to pinpoint the issues. We never were able to do that.
Midway through the race, I was getting extremely tired. At one point, I tried to move my hand off the wheel and I physically couldn’t get my hand to open; it had been clinched so tightly that it had cramped up, and it took me driving the truck with my knee and pulling my hand off of it to get some relief. The position of the steering wheel in the truck was off, but in our rush to work on the truck during practice, I had forgotten to mention it. By having the wheel too high, my arms got pretty tired during the middle part of the race. All of these things are physical issues that have made me realize I need to make conditioning & the details of my cockpit much bigger priorities.
We learned a lot as a team this weekend, and I learned a lot as a driver. Dover is a tough racetrack, and it kicked my ass. I’m looking forward to redeeming myself at another track I’ve raced at, Charlotte Motor Speedway, this Friday night.