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Robert’s Write-Up: Making the Daytona 500

131 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  Dale3DaleJr88

Since R3 Motorsports closed it's doors in 2014, I've basically been working on a farm in Pilot Point Texas, taking care of my wife, and our little boy Robert Thomas (2 months old), getting plugged into our local church, and spending a lot more time with friends and family that I've missed out on the past ten years or so while I was racing.

Getting The Call
Two weeks prior to the Daytona 500, I was out on the tractor that Friday morning, mowing the hay pastures prepping for this spring's hay crop when Lane Segerstrom, President of Stalk It and Cornboard, reached out to me and said he had been in contact with a few Sprint Cup teams about potentially running the Daytona 500. He was narrowing down his search and asked if I was available to drive that race for them. My reply was, “Does a one legged duck swim in circles?” That's a YES in Texas.

He told me that he would have things finalized by the next Monday and he would get back to me. Nonetheless, it was an answered prayer for my wife and I about a situation we had been facing financially about getting a college fund started for our son. My wife and I had debated two days prior to the phone call from Mr. Segerstrom on how we were going to find the money necessary to start this college fund. So, needless to say, I was thanking God and jumping for joy when I received that phone call. But there was still a lot of work to be done beforehand.

In order for me to compete in NASCAR again, I had to meet their requirements through a process of concussion exams, physical exams, drug tests, licensing forms to complete, and somewhere in between, fly to Charlotte, North Carolina for a few days to meet the folks with whom I would be racing for, and that was with BK Racing. I had to get a seat mold done within the new carbon fiber seats that NASCAR prefers all drivers to use for maximum safety during the races.
I had never used a carbon fiber seat before. It was a pretty neat experience. Plus, I got to catch up with some old friends that I hadn't seen in awhile.

Once we got to the track and went through the numerous practice sessions of the week, the No. 26 Stalk It Toyota Camry was toward the bottom of the list of drivers who had been working on their qualifying setups trying to qualify for the Can-Am Duel races that Thursday night. But we couldn't show our hand until qualifying day, of course! My crew chief Mike Ford, a legend in the sport, had dialed our car in so that we could beat the majority of the guys who had to race their way into the Daytona 500, in which we accomplished our goal.

For a group of guys that built a car from the ground up and hadn't known or worked together prior to Speedweeks and to accomplished the things we did in a short amount of time, speaks volumes about the "Little Team That Could".Once the Duel race began for us, we ultimately had one guy we had to race and beat to make it into the Daytona 500. That was David Gilliland.
I admire him as a driver and once had as a teammate in prior years with Front Row Motorsports. But I also had a safety net to fall back on as well with my teammate Matt DiBenedetto, who qualified on time to make the 500 on speed. So we had a bit of a conservative approach in the race to try to keep the cars that had to race their way in behind us in the race and let Matt get as far ahead of them as possible to guarantee our spot in the Daytona 500; in which we accomplished that goal as well. Once I climbed from the Stalk It Toyota after the Duel race, I was met with a herd of media folks. I had never seen anything like it. I might of well just won the race with all the cameras in my face and people eager to hear what I had to say about making the Daytona 500. It was awesome!!! Shortly thereafter, I was whisked away to the media center for more Q&A with all the media folks from all over the world to know what it feels like to make “The Great American Race”. It was such a blessing!

The day of the 500, I literally paced the floor all day until I was able to get behind-the-wheel and relax in my office. The anticipation of it all and wondering how the race was going to pan out was constantly going through my mind. Once we rolled out onto the grid and the race got underway, we found out that we had a pretty good car. But, we still had more adjustments to make to the car to make it better for the race.

After the first round of pit stops, we kept freeing the car up as the race progressed to put us in a situation to at least move up through the field and put it in a good position at the end of the race to be in the mix. But in the end, the motor went up in smoke along with any chance of finishing the Daytona 500, along with what would have been the cherry on top of our Speedweeks at Daytona. I'm very proud of all of my guys on the 26 team and would go into battle with them any day.
I'm also very thankful to Lane Segerstrom with Stalk It and Ron Devine with BK Racing for giving me this opportunity to race again.
I'm also thankful to Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon for all the coverage our car received during Speedweeks. Things couldn't have been better.

The Future
As far as my future in racing, that is all in the good Lord's hands. As for now, I am going to hop on my John Deere tractor and ride off into the sunset with my wife and little boy and hope that someday I may get another opportunity at racing. But, if it never does, racing in the Daytona 500 is a good way to go out. I'll just be taking life one day at a time and being the best husband and father that I can be.

Making the Daytona 500

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