Coming off a sub-par 12th place finish in the season opener at Nashville, Country Roads Motorsports looked to improve their results at Charlotte. In a 12 race season, anything but top 5-7 finishes could be detrimental for points at the end of the year. One drop week gives a throwaway week, but two bad weeks could cost a driver a championship.
The night started off as good as it possibly could for Steinmiller and CRM. Atop the practice board, they were able to draw the final qualifying spot and looked to start solidly in the top 5. That was, until Steinmiller lost the rear end coming out of turn 4 on the warmup lap for the second week in a row. Another start in the rear for us.
With only 100 laps to go from 22nd to the top, the moves must be quick and calculated. Quick work was made of the back half of the pack as the USMC Impala made its way to 8th by lap 13. A hornets nest of cars slowed our progress for the next 10 laps before the field sorted to mostly single file. Unfortunately, there was one last side by side battle, and we were caught on the wrong end of that one. The 16 car caught the wall out of turn 4 and shot into the bottom lane creating chaos on the front stretch for everyone from 10th on back.
After three pit stops to fix as much damage as possible, the car was miraculously still somewhat competitive. A strategy call to stay on old tires left us a bit slower than the front 10 but we were able to hold our place in 11th-13th for the next 20 laps. On lap 45, the 24 decided our competitive night was done. Driving into turn one, he drove directly into our left rear and followed through to the wall until the deck lid was left flapping. Apparently leaving a bottom lane to pass wasn’t enough, as he wanted to drive his line and his line only.
As always when running for points, we never give up. The crew fixed as much damage as possible, put on 4 new tires and filled it up with fuel. The 24 sending us into the wall proved to be the last caution of the race as the final 52 laps of the race went green. Smooth driving and fuel strategy allowed us to knock on the door of the top 10 but ultimately come home 12th again. A great recovery for a mediocre night. The 12th place finish allowed us to keep our 11th place points position, within spitting distance to the top 5.
Next week the G-Force Grand National Series powered by The JuiceBox Podcast will visit Richmond Raceway for 125 laps of short track action. Catch all the action live on the Flatout Racing Network Tuesday night at 9 pm. Be sure to check out the JuiceBox Podcast on all podcast platforms and give them a shoutout.