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Winning the Big One!
Jun 25, 2008 - updated Jun 25th, 2008 2:14pm
Web posted by Paulie Harraka

--

This weekend was undoubtedly the biggest of the season for our entire Ruth's Chris Steakhouse Toyota team. With the Placer County Fair going on adjacent to the racetrack, as well as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing just an hour and a half away at Infineon Raceway, All American Speedway held their AT&T Rumble at Roseville 150, paying $4,000 to win. Our team brought home that $4,000 check!

My weekend started at Bill McAnally Racing's shop on Thursday, where I spent a large portion of my day measuring tires and putting some finishing touches on our racecar. On Friday, I headed out to Infineon to spend some time in the Sprint Cup Series garage area.
Saturday morning came and we put some finishing touches on the car, scaled it, and loaded up for the racetrack. Because this was a special event at All-American Speedway, only NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models were racing. There were no "support races," such as Street Stocks or Modifieds. We had a single, one hour long practice session that afternoon. At the start of the session, we jumped to third on the practice board. We made a few changes and learned a few things, dropping as far down the charts as seventh before a spring change catapulted us back to second. I was extremely happy because not only could we go fast, but we were extremely consistent and did not "fall off" (or slow down) over a long run.
In qualifying, a small setup mistake resulted in the front end dragging in both turns 1 and 2 and in 3 and 4. This resulted in our worst qualifying run of the season: 12th out of 24 cars. The 150 laps was split into two separate 75 lap races, with each race paying separate NASCAR Points, but with the 2 race combined points results paying the money and the trophy.

For the first race, only the top four were inverted. Starting from 12th was a huge disadvantage, but I did have at least one advantage over the rest of the field: the man on the other end of the radio. Elton Sawyer, NASCAR Nationwide Series Winner and Competition Director for the Red Bull Racing Team, came to All American after Cup practice concluded at Infineon to spot for me, bringing the legendary rear end and transmission designer and builder Tex Powell with him. At the start of the race, Elton helped me get to the bottom immediately and into the 11th position. By lap 7, we worked our way to 8th. By lap 29, we were up to 6th. At this point, the fifth place car was in my sights, but the top four had stretched out a significant gap. We needed a caution to catch the lead pack. We moved into 5th on lap 50, but the caution we needed to catch the leaders never came. We ended up finishing 5th, and while we had hoped to finish better, we were happy to have finished that high after starting that deep in the field and to have not damaged the car at all coming from deep in the pack.

Between races was an all-out thrash. We had not anticipated running the entire first 75 lap race under green flag conditions, and thus decided not to run a rear end cooler. Because the race went green all the way, we overheated the rear end, boiling the rear end grease and burning up the rear gear. However, the Joe Gibbs Driven oil stood up to the challenge and, despite the heat, allowed us to finish the race. Luckily, we had the perfect man to supervise the rear end change: Tex Powell. Our crew, Travis Sutcliff, Ryan Precher, Tony Rapachietta, and Alex McAnally worked their butts off between the races. My father, Elton Sawyer, and Tex Powell got their hands dirty, as well. I was so involved in working on the car that I didn't take any break between the races and rehydrate myself, which was a big mistake. We ended up finishing the rear end change, bleeding the brakes, and filling the car with fuel in time for the second race.

With a top 6 invert, we started the second 75 lap event form the outside pole. We were able to race the polesitter hard for the first few laps and took the lead. We had an awesome racecar and stretched out a small lead before the first caution flew. As soon as we went back green, the 00 car lifted the back of my car up exiting turn 2, turning me sideways. Normally, when you do that to someone, you let off and let them gather their car back in. The 00 opted to keep pushing me. However, I was able to get the car gathered back in and I retained the lead. The 00 did this again on a lap 12 restart, turning me completely sideways and forcing me up the racetrack. This time, the 00 was able to pass me for the lead. Elton was able to get me back to the inside without falling any further back than second position. Elton's first words to me after we settled into second were, "Be patient. You know you're faster than the 00. We've got plenty of time to get them back." Elton was completely right and I just sat behind the 00, watching them overdrive their car and burn the tires off. The caution flew again and I started beside the 00 on the lap 17 double file restart. Thanks to some advice from Rodney Childers, as well as some further analysis of our AiM Sportsystems Data, we had a racecar that worked well both on the high and low sides of the racetrack. Within 2 laps I had cleared the 00 on the outside and retaken the lead. Despite a number of cautions, we never relinquished the lead and went on to win race the second 75 lap main!

While we were taking our team pictures after winning the 75 lap main, it was announced that, with our 5th and 1st place finishes, we also won the composite points between the two races. So, we won the second feature race, the overall event, and the $4,000! It was awesome to bring that trophy home for Toyota, TRD, BMR, Ruth's Chris, and Briggs and Stratton.
We're now halfway through the season, and after 52,640 miles of air travel, we've got 4 wins and 8 top 5 finishes! Our next event is a Toyota TRD 100 this Saturday, June 28 at All American Speedway.


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