Race/Date: Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, Nov. 13, 2005
Laps Completed/Total Laps: 312/312
Driver Points Position: 33rd
Owner Points Position: 34th
Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, a loose-handling condition Scott Wimmer and his No. 22 CAT Racing team encountered earlier in the weekend came back to taunt them some more in the early running of the Checker Auto Parts 500, but the driver nor team didn’t put up with the nonsense for long and went on to hold on to a top-15 run the majority of the 312-lap competition and even took over the lead in the last quarter of the race. However, a late-race tire rub eventually derailed the teams strong run and forced the driver and team to settle for a 21st-place finish.
Friday presented a few hurdles for the No. 22 CAT Racing team. During the first practice of the racing weekend at PIR, Wimmer and team worked to find more front grip on the one-mile oval. By the end of practice, the team had successfully found more grip, but overcompensated in the correction leaving the car a little too tight. Still, the team pulled off the track the 16th fastest car by session close, running around the Arizona speedway in 27.8 seconds at 129.3 miles per hour.
Another unexpected hurdle followed in the second and final practice of the weekend. Just halfway into the final hour of on-track race preparation, Wimmer came over the radio saying he had a flat left-front tire. He tried to pull the No. 22 car into his garage stall but soon found himself stuck in the middle of the garage unable to turn the wheel. The team ran over to the car and discovered a broken tie-rod. The guys went to work to make the necessary repairs, and then sent Wimmer back on track.
Qualifying followed the next morning. Wimmer was the 27th driver to make his trial laps. His first circuit was fast and impressive, lapping the track in 27.596 seconds. He had picked up two-tenths from practice and the team looked forward to the next lap, as most teams were picking up at least four-tenths on their second laps. However, as Wimmer came around the track to complete his trial run the expected gain did not happen and the result was a 27.57-second lap time, which landed the Caterpillar team in the 40th-starting position for the 35th NASCAR Nextel Cup race of the 2005 season.
After starting 40th for Sundays 500-mile race, Wimmer was determined to make up for the track position he lost in his qualifying effort the day before. His determination was evident to many, as they watched the No. 22 car move up to 30th place by lap 16.
To help his driver gain even more track position, Crew Chief Derrick Finley decided he would utilize the first yellow flag of the race on lap 26 to give his CAT Racing driver that extra boost. He called Wimmer, who was currently running in 27th place, to pit road on lap 27. The team took fuel and two right-side tires only, along with a right-rear air pressure adjustment to try to improve the car’s loose handling and grip on the race track. As racing returned to green on lap 31, the No. 22 CAT car was in 14th place. Finley had succeeded in his effort to help Wimmer advance even farther up through the field.
The 29-year old driver went on to maintain the track position the good pit strategy had resulted in for the remainder of the first quarter of the race. The car’s grip was improving and by lap 110, the Bill Davis Racing entry was 12th.
It wasnt until after the third pit stop of the day, on lap 115, that the team took one of only a few steps back. First, the stop the team made during the third caution of the day took the CAT car from an 11th-place run to an 18th-place restart. Then, shortly after racing resumed, Wimmer came over the radio saying his car had developed a severe rear-end vibration. He commented, Guys, there is a bad vibration and I am not sure what it is. It feels like the rear brakes are locking up.
The CAT crew watched its car fall back to 20th place before the fourth yellow flag of the race waved on lap 167. The yellow flag was a sign of relief for the BDR team, as the guys knew this was going to buy them the time they needed to survey the car to try to see what could be causing the vibration.
The No. 22 yellow car came down pit road on lap 168 for four tires and fuel, and a quick evaluation. After looking the car over, the team could not find anything wrong with the car and sent Wimmer back on track in 20th place as racing resumed on lap 173.
Just a little more than 10 laps later, Wimmer said the car felt better. The vibration was still present but the more front brake he put in the car the more it seemed to subside the rear-end vibration. He did need a little help with getting just a bit more grip on the Phoenix track. So, the team made its fifth stop of the day, less than 20 laps later, for four more tires and fuel along with another minor air pressure adjustment. It was a great stop for the over-the-wall CAT crew. Its car entered pit road in 18th place, but left in 15th. Just a few laps later Wimmer was 13th. By lap 233, he was 11th
The team pitted one more time, on lap 229 under yellow-flag conditions, for a quick gas and go. Wimmer brought his car to pit road in 13th place, but by the time the teams gasmanTony Andersontopped off the No. 22 with fuel and sent his driver back out on the track, the Caterpillar car was 12th.
Then, the team took a gamble with a little more than 50 laps to go. The 10th yellow flag of the race waved on lap 254. The CAT team had just short pitted for fuel just a few laps earlier and was good to go to the end, so Finley told his driver to stay out and not pit. As a result, Wimmer took over the lead.
Wimmer went on to hold the lead for a little more than 10 laps, but a left-front tire rub soon forced the team to fold on its late-race gamble with a 21st-place finish.
Wimmer said after the race, I’m glad we took that gamble there in the end. We had nothing to lose and it was fun to get back up front and lead the field again. Derrick and the guys did a great job today. I think we played with what we were dealt the best we could.