DAY/DATE: Sunday, March 21, 2004
RACE TIME: 1:00 pm EST
RACE: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400
TELEVISION/RADIO COVERAGE: Live on FOX/ Live on MRN Radio
RACE LAPS/MILES: 293 laps / 400 miles
RACE WINNER: Jimmie Johnson
STARTING POSITION: 14th
FINISHING POSITION: 16th
OWNER POINTS POSITION:20th
RACE RECAP: Scott Wimmer, driver of the #22 Caterpillar Dodge, prepared to compete in his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at the odd-shaped oval with so much heritage. The team wanted to test there prior to this weekends race, but the addition of soft walls prevented anyone from testing. Wimmer has had some good runs at Darlington Raceway, but luck has not been on his side for most of them. This weekend, the team hoped to turn their luck around and get a good finish to put them back in range for the top 10 in point standings.
Friday started off with a long race run at the beginning of practice to see where the #22 Caterpillar Dodge stacked up to the competition with the new soft walls taking up over two feet of the race track. Wimmers lap times looked very good, so the team switched over to their qualifying set up and ran a lap time that placed them just outside the top 10. Wimmer made his lap and posted the 14th-fastest time, while Kasey Kahne won his second pole of the season. Saturday morning gave the team the opportunity to fine tune the #22. Wimmer and the CAT team were very pleased with the way the CAT Dodge handled for both practice sessions in race trim. The team made minor changes to the car and finished up Happy Hour second on the board.
The green flag dropped for Sundays race and Wimmer was able to hold his position until the caution came out on lap nine when Michael Waltrip hit the wall. Wimmer was just a little tight from the center off the turns, so he pitted for tires and an air pressure adjustment and returned to the field 15th. Once the race restarted, Wimmer had slipped to 16th but the car was just beginning to get better for him when the caution came out when Tony Stewart tagged Andy Hillenburg and collected Jeff Gordon on lap 28. Wimmer pitted for tires and removed a spring rubber from the right rear and returned to the track 16th. The caution came out for debris on lap 53, giving the crew another opportunity to make some adjustments to the CAT Dodge. Wimmer reported that he couldnt keep the wheel turning into turn one, which is a prime location to make passes and gain positions. The crew went to work and made some more adjustments to help make the car looser for Wimmer. After the race resumed, Wimmer slid back to 20th because he was still tight. Stoddard made the call to short pit, placing Wimmer 14th when the pit stops cycled out. The caution came out shortly thereafter and the crew pitted again for some more adjustments and returned to the track 15th. Still fighting a tight condition, the crew continued to talk through what they could do to make the car handle better for Wimmer. They made changes on several pit stops before the conclusion of the race, but few adjustments seemed to help the issue that Wimmer faced in turn one and two. Wimmer was well on his way to a 13th place finish, since his car handled much better on long runs, but a series of late cautions in the closing laps prevented him from capitalizing on that opportunity. Wimmer finished 16th in Sundays race and Jimmie Johnson picked up his first win of the season. Matt Kenseth continues to lead the point standings.
NEXT EVENT: The Caterpillar Racing team heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 on Sunday, March 28, 2004.