Greetings from the garage at Infineon Raceway! Today was a long hot day for everyone in the garages as the temperature hit 99 degrees and who knows how hot it was inside those cars during practice and qualifying.
My day started off with the traditional long dusty walk through the cow pastures to get to the track. I made it inside the garage just as the Miller Lite team was pushing their car through inspection.
Thankfully, the Brew Crew were all happy to see me and I met the new spotter for the team, Chris Osborne. I told them we were hoping to get some good video and interviews with them for the new and improved Miller Lite Racing website and warned them I would be bugging them all weekend for the inside scoop.
Security was pretty aggressive in the garage and they were keeping everyone, even photographers (!) behind a line about 10 feet back from the garages. Eric, one of the mechanics, saw that they weren’t letting me up to the garage went over and told the guard to let me go by the car and magic sesame I was in. It was pretty cool I must say…
As the crew was prepping the car for practice I asked them details about several incidents that plagued the Miller Lite team in recent weeks. If you recall at Pocono two weeks ago, the Miller Lite crew expertly fixed the splitter after Kurt spun and took a wild ride through the grass. I asked Bill, one of the mechanics, to show me how they re-attached the splitter arms to the front bumper so quickly. At Dover, both the #2 and #12 teams had problems with their fueling system. Steve, the “Underneath Mechanic” opened up the deck lid and showed me exactly what went wrong. He also gave me his first hand account of what was going through his mind when the pit caught on fire at Lowes after a lugnut got run over as Kurt was leaving the pit and ignited some spilt fuel. Steve is the catch can man on Sundays (his son, Chris is the gas man) so he was extra concerned as he was stuck holding a can full of fuel. He also said he got hit in the leg by the red hot lug nut so he was 2 for 2 that day…I will post a blog with pictures and more details about these mishaps.
I watched the team setup the Miller Lite Dodge for practice. I was a little concerned that there was something wrong with the car because they were shaking it violently on the jack stands but Darin, the engine tuner said “not to worry” that whenever they lowered the track bar they had to “shake” the car until it “settles in to place”. Did you know that there are 3 antennae on the roof of the cars? One of them is for the team radio and the other two are for NASCAR timing and scoring. Every car also has a round hockey puck looking camera in the front on the roof. Only a few of them are actually cameras, the others are “false cameras” so every car has the same aerodynamic disadvantage. Back to practice…Kurt ran most of it in race trim and made only two qualifying runs. After practice the crew set the car up for qualifying and grabbed some grub.
In the long inspection line before qualifying, I had a chance to ask the crew some questions for the new website. They are going to be featured so I got some info on their favorite food to wash down with a Miller Lite, their favorite track and their best memory with the Miller Lite team and more. The new website should be up soon so you can read all their answers…like who eats “sweaty and sweet” chicken wings!
For qualifying, I just acted like I belonged with the crew and joined them right out by the car on pit road. I have some great shots of Kurt and the crew.
Kurt missed his mark in Turn 2 but still laid down a great lap and qualified 3rd for the race on Sunday. The crew was stoked and I am hopeful for a trip to Victory Lane!
After qualifying, I stopped and snapped a picture of the fuel prices at the Sunoco pump. For the 116 octane leaded fuel that the Cup teams use, the going rate was $9.99 per gallon! Yikes! When you figure a team uses about 115 gallons of fuel for the race here and another 50 or so gallons for practice and qualifying it adds up to a pretty penny. Ouch!
I walked around and finally found the Miller Lite crew near the inspection area all laid out (literally!) waiting for qualifying to be over.
As most of you know, the first three qualifiers and all of the Go or Go Homers must go through inspection again after qualifying. They were exhausted after the long hot day but still had to clear inspection and then tear the car down like normal afterwards. They were hoping to leave the track by 7pm and will have to be back at 7 am. I left the crew to finish their work and headed back to the Miller Lite hauler. I had just walked up when out of the mirrored doors walks Jamie McMurray and Kurt both in street clothes snacking on Twizzlers…for some reason that just cracked me up.
I headed out and made the long (30 min) walk back through the cow pastures to the car and made it to my hotel by about 7:30p. Off to bed for me, its an early day tomorrow with practice and Happy Hour all before noon. Look for another report from the garage on Saturday!