Race/Date: USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday, July 10, 2005
Laps Completed/Total Laps: 267/267
Driver Points Position: 34th (same as last week)
Owner Points Position: 34th (moved up one from last week)
A late-race gamble put Scott Wimmer and his No. 22 CAT Racing team in the lead with less than 20 laps left to run in the USG Sheetrock 400 on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. The brave move not only helped the team grab its second-best finish17th placeof the 2005 season, but added five bonus points to the teams overall points tally for the day, aiding the team in its NASCAR Nextel Cup standings climb.
The racing weekend near the Windy City got started late Friday morning. The CAT Racing team unloaded the Caterpillar Dodge and put up the third fastest lap right off the truck in the first NASCAR Nextel Cup practice session. The Bill Davis Racing team was the 23rd fastest by the end of practice, lapping the 1.5-mile track at 184.5 miles per hour in 29.26 seconds.
Qualifying got underway at 3:10 p.m. CT later that same day. Wimmer and crew were the first ones up for the late afternoon trial session and posted a 29.28-second circuit. As the last car closed the qualifying phase of the race weekend, the No. 22 team settled in to 30th place for Sundays starting lineup.
More practice followed on Saturday, and Wimmer told his team he was really happy with the car. It was a little tight toward the end of the morning, but the Wisconsin-native driver said the car felt really good and he looked forward to racing it.
The green flag waved to start the 18th race of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season just passed 2:45 p.m. CT on Sunday. The day started off on a bit of a confusing note for the CAT Racing team as Wimmer continued to encounter problems with his radio, making it hard for him to hear his crew chief Derrick Finley. Fortunately, the problem was resolved by the time the first yellow flag was displayed on lap 25.
The No. 22 Dodge was quite stubborn getting in and out of the corners of the speedway. Wimmer told his guys he needed to run up top, but his car made it hard for him as it was extremely loose getting into the corners and very tight coming off.
To try to improve the cars corner entry and exit, the team utilized the first two cautions of the race to make multiple adjustments. Air pressure, track bar and wedge were all utilized to try to get the car to come around to Wimmer. Racing was back to green on lap 86 with the No. 22 in 26th place. By the time the field completed the first circuit of the restart, Wimmer was 25th and proceeded to move up to 23rd by the time another yellow flag waved on lap 89. The adjustments the team had made were paying off.
From that point on, the CAT Racing team was a top-25 contender. Just past the halfway point of the race on lap 153, Wimmer said the car was really starting to take to the track and come around to him. His track position reinforced that very statement as he proceeded to move up to 21st by lap 159.
As the race progressed it became very apparent the No. 22 Dodge favored the longer runs. It was this very reason the big gamble for the No. 22 team played out the way it did when the ninth caution flag of the race waved on lap 243 of the 267-lap event. Finely and Wimmer talked back and forth about whether to pit or not to pit. Then, just as the majority of the field came down pit road, Wimmer stayed on the track.
The move was daring, but the plan made sense for the No. 22 team whose car was favoring the longer runs. The team also knew if Wimmer could hold on to the lead for at least one circuit, that would add five bonus points to its pocket.
Racing was back to green on lap 249, with Wimmer leading the way in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge. Another caution came out on the restart lap, then racing was quickly back to green for the last time of the day on lap 255. Wimmer held on for one more lap, then was passed by the No. 8 car, but he didnt give up without surging ahead one more time before the No. 8 car proved to be too strong to beat. As more cars with fresher tires worked passed the No. 22, Wimmer held on to a very loose-handling car and eventually landed in 17th by the time the checkered flag waved.
When the team was tearing down the car to load it on the truck, a slow leak was discovered in the left-rear tire. This was not the first time the team saw this that day. A left-front tire had exhibited the same decrease in air pressure after an earlier stop, as well.
All in all, it was a strong run for the BDR team and Wimmer. The late-race gamble didn’t get them a win but it got them one of their better finishes and most notable runs of the season.
My tires started to fall off there toward the end. We knew that would happen, but thought we could hold on for at least a top 15. We almost did, but not quite. Its a good day though. We were trying to decide on whether to pit or not and I saw everyone else going. I guess we just wanted to see what we could do in clean air and we really didnt have too much to lose. The car was definitely much stronger on the longer runs all day so we took a chance and it definitely didn’t hurt us. I really think we wouldn’t have gotten a better finish if we hadn’t done that. This is definitely a good day for the CAT team, and Im glad we could do it here so close to Caterpillars home. I think the highlight of my day was running with Jr. there in the end. That was really fun. Im glad to see him get a win. He’s been having a tough season like us and Im really happy for him and his guys.