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"Paulie Harraka: We're Almost There!"
Jun 18, 2007 - updated Jun 20th, 2007 2:52pm
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California --

This weekend was once again our best finish for the Infineon Raceway / Briggs and Stratton NASCAR Late Model for Bill McAnally Racing. After starting the race in 7th position (We qualified 3 rd, but the top 9 were inverted), we rallied to 2nd place in the 50 Lap Main Event at Roseville, California's All-American Speedway.

The weekend was my first time acting as my own crew chief, as Kenny Winters is still healing from his shoulder surgery 2 weeks ago. Luckily, Bill McAnally has surrounded me with a strong crew of people, led by Justin Bologna, to lean on. I was able to spend all day on Friday, as well as part of the morning on Saturday, going through the final checklist and setting up the car. Justin had done all of the scheduled maintenance before I arrived. Keeping my own "Driver's Notebook", as per the advice of Joe Balash, NASCAR's Busch Series Director, proved to be an enormous help once I rolled the car onto the surface plate (BMR has 4 Surface Plates!). Luckily, we discovered that one of our crewman, with the addition of a piece of lead in his lap, was almost exactly my weight, so I was able to scale the car with him in the seat.

During the first practice session, I quickly discovered that we had an excellent racecar. Between all of the practice sessions, I only made about 30 laps, making only minor changes each time. A few rounds of wedge (A round of wedge is a rotation on a jack bolt that increases the amount of weigh percentage on the Left Rear and Right Front tire), track bar adjustments (The bar that stops the car's rear end from moving left and right; It is typically adjusted up and down), and other changes and we were dialed in. Having to hold the duties of Crew Chief and Driver, I am extremely, and I mean extremely, fortunate that I have Justin Bologna, Kelley Winters, Travis, and Austin to work on the racecar. They all did an absolutely stellar job. I was excited for qualifying, and actually a little disappointed with our 3 rd place effort.

Qualifying in the Top 4 earned us a place in the 4 Lap sprint known as the Trophy Dash. Unfortunately, we had to start the Dash in 4 th place. With a little extra anticipation on the start, I was able to get into the bottom groove and 3rd place by the end of the first lap. After fighting with Eric Schmidt, who is a seasoned All-American Speedway Veteran, the track points leader, and the guy who's won the last 5 races in a row, I was able to move into 2 nd. When I finally got past Eric, I had only 1 lap to try and run down and pass Bobby Grewohl, one of my teammates at Bill McAnally Racing. Although that wasn't enough time, I was still happy with the second place finish, especially since it was to my teammate, who started on the pole.

Starting the race in 7th position for the main event made for an exciting start. I knew that I would need to be quick to move up, as 50 laps isn't much time. Justin Bologna, who spotted for me, did an excellent job of helping me move through the field. We were up to the 4 th position by lap 21. The caution flag fell for a spin on lap 26, which helped to bunch the field back up. "Green flag next time by. Let's get ready. This is going to be our shot," Justin encouraged over the radio before the green flag came back out. As soon as the green flag dropped, I started to work around the 3 rd place car. Once I got around him on lap 30, I set my sights on John Moore, who was running in second. John is an awesome competitor. He and I have run countless laps side-by-side, never touching one another, fighting tooth-and-nail for position. I was able to run John down by lap 40 and passed him on lap 42. The leader was once again teammate Bobby Grewohl, and Bobby had a 1 second lead on me. With 8 laps to go, I took the car for all it was worth. We definitely had the best car on the racetrack, as I was able to roll through the corner with more momentum than ever before. Unfortunately, Bobby had a great car, too, and I was only catching him by about .07 of a second every lap. 7 laps was too short to catch Bobby, but coming home second was a great night overall. We beat Eric Schmidt, the points leader, and John Moore, who is 2 nd in points, and moved further away from Gary Glenn, who is 4th in points. It was also great to see BMR come home 1-2 in both the Trophy Dash and Main event.

Again, all of the crew did an awesome job rising to the occasion this weekend. Not only did they have to deal with having the crew chief stuck in the racecar during practice, I also am extremely particular when it comes to gathering tire temperatures and other data when the car comes off the track. I really have to thank all of them for their work, as well as Bill McAnally for allowing me to work with them.

Our next race is this coming Saturday, June 23. Many who read this blog will be at Infineon Raceway for the Nextel Cup event. All-American Speedway is located about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Infineon, and our race will probably start around 8 PM. We would love to have everyone come out, and I have heard that All-American is going to have transportation to and from Infineon. Feel free to e-mail me at PHarraka@gmail.com and I will get you more info.


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