DAY/DATE:Sunday, July 11, 2004
RACE TIME:3:30 pm EST
TELEVISION/RADIO COVERAGE:Live on NBC/MRN Radio
RACE LAPS:267 laps
RACE WINNER:Tony Stewart
FINISHING POSITION: 23rd
OWNER POINTS POSITION:27th
RACE RECAP:The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competed in one of the largest race markets currently on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule, Chicago. Scott Wimmer, driver of the #22 Caterpillar Dodge, was primed and ready to race after a two-day stop in nearby Peoria, Ill., home of Caterpillar. Caterpillar is the largest employer in the state of Illinois.
Fridays practice session prior to qualifying brought frustration for Wimmer and crew chief Frank Stoddard as they found themselves considerably slower than the competition. They worked on several different options before settling on a setup they hoped would help Wimmer get off the corner and post a time that was better than what they had run in practice. Once Wimmer made his qualifying lap, the team knew they were going to end up taking a provisional starting position. Jeff Gordon won the pole award for the event and Wimmer would start 40th in Sundays Tropicana 400.
Saturdays practice sessions were again challenging, but they found that they had some hope for the race on Sunday. They tried several combinations on the setup and scuffed tires during both practice sessions and as a result werent one of the fastest cars, but still felt they had a good chance for a decent finish on Sunday.
Sundays race got underway and Wimmer began trying to pick his way through traffic since he started 40th for Sundays race. When the first yellow flag was displayed on lap 18 for Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, Wimmer had climbed to 33rd position. He reported that he was a little free on entry and through the center and therefore, pitted for four tires, a major track bar adjustment and air pressure adjustment and returned to the track 28th. The car really responded to the changes the crew made and Wimmer reported that the loose on entry had been fixed, but they could use a little more from the center off the corner. Wimmer was 26th when the caution came out for Brendan Gaughans broken transmission on lap 39. The team opted to pit again and took on four fresh tires and another air pressure adjustment and returned to the track 29th. Again, the changes really helped the handling of the car and Wimmer again was able to pick up some more positions, climbing to 18th by lap 87. Green flag pit stops began and Wimmer pitted on lap 97 for a scheduled fuel stop and also took four tires with an air pressure adjustment to help the car get off turn two a little better. Wimmer was able to remain on the track longer since some of the other teams had pitted earlier and the team hoped for a caution, but it didnt come. As a result, Wimmer lost some ground to the leaders and found himself a lap down to leader Tony Stewart when he returned to the track and pit stops had cycled out. Wimmer was 23rd when the caution came out on lap 119 for Ricky Cravens blown engine. He pitted for another change to the air pressure and got four new tires and returned to the track 23rd. On the restart, Wimmer was in position to get his lap back if a quick caution occurred, which it did on the restart when Stewart tapped Kasey Kahne and sent his car spinning, collecting several other cars. Wimmer was ahead of the #20, but NASCARs new timing and scoring system put them behind the #20, but that put the CAT team in position to be the recipient of the lucky dog award. NASCAR took long to determine that the team wasnt past Stewart, so when they finally told the team they were the lucky dog they allowed them to pit for tires, but wouldnt let them take on fuel. Stoddard and team owner Bill Davis were displeased with the call as they felt it was the fault of NASCAR that the call came down so late. But, the team regrouped and returned to racing in 20th position. Wimmer was very pleased with the way the car handled once the race resumed and was able to pick up some more positions. He had climbed to 15th with 40 laps remaining in the race and was slated for a very respectable and hard fought top 15 finish. The caution came out on lap 245 for debris and on the restart Wimmer reported that there was something wrong with the transmission. All the track position he had just fought for was suddenly gone. Wimmer fell to 22nd and was fighting for mare positions when the caution came out again with 13 to go. The restart brought more lost positions for the #22 and Wimmer was only able to finish 23rd after a respectable run could have given the team a top 15 finish in front of the Caterpillar fans. Tony Stewart collected his first win of the season and Jimmie Johnson continues to lead the points battle.
NEXT RACE: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series enjoys a weekend off, but returns to racing at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sunday, July 25, 2004