Myrtle Beach Notes & Quotes
Wednesday, October 26 2011 @ 06:16 PM EDT
Strategy? What strategy?
Jeff Agnew entered the CARS Pro Cup 200 just one point out of the Championship points lead. By the time the race concluded, he was standing in Victory Lane celebrating his 4th win of this season and taking over the points lead with one race to go. With tire strategy being such a key factor at a track as abrasive as Myrtle Beach Speedway, most teams have their winning plans laid out before the race goes green. According to Agnew’s crew chief Doug Weddle, the pit decision was all driver.
Doug Weddle (Team 7 crew chief): “Strategy at Myrtle Beach? I don’t think we had a strategy. Waiting on the tires was strictly a Jeff Agnew call. I told him I wanted to stay out one more, but I would support him either way. And he made that call 100%. We decided that when we were back there running wherever – 6th or 7th,th that the only way we were going to get the track position back was to do something different than everyone else. We came down and took the tires and I was a little bit worried because another caution came out 15 laps later, I said ‘well maybe this won’t hurt us too bad.’ It didn’t, thanks to the 2nd caution. If it had been a 40-50 lap run there, we would’ve been hurting.”
Agnew took over the lead on lap 140 by passing Cale Conley in the #56, who was on a different tire strategy and had pitted before Agnew. Ten lap fresher tires wouldn’t be that great of an advantage at most tracks, but at Myrtle Beach a driver looks like superman for a few laps.
But it wasn’t a simple matter of cruising to the win after taking over the lead. Pole sitter and points leader at the time, Brad Rogers, was giving all he could to get the lead back from Agnew, making several attempts to pull inside of the #7 car only to have to fall back when he got loose or encountered lapped traffic.
When it became apparent that Rogers would not be able to get it done, Agnew had a new contender in his rear view mirror. Tyler Young had pitted for his fresh tires with only 25 laps to go and was mowing through the field from a 10th place restart to catch up to Agnew at the end.
Weddle: “That was a wonderful call [by Young’s team]. I didn’t have the courage to wait that long. Jeff and I talked about that, but our fear was that we would get lapped waiting. We just didn’t have the courage to wait that long. We were trying to balance waiting with not getting lapped. Sometimes that’s a split second decision.“
Almost but not quite…
Anyone watching Pro Cup races this season has witnessed the “light going on” for young driver Tyler Young. He’s confident and is improving every race and has become a solid contender for a win right now. He grabbed his first Pro Cup pole at Hickory during the last race and looked like he was going to get the first win this night at Myrtle Beach.
Running near the 5th position for most of the race, the Carolina Paranormal sponsored Chevy appeared to be human. And then the team made a risky pit strategy move pay off by waiting as long as possible for their fresh tires. When the race restarted for the final time with 25 laps to go, Young would restart from 9th place with a car that was now ‘spooky fast’.
Young: “I tell ya what. We started at about 10th there with 20 to go. We had new tires. We knew what we had to do. We just had to go do it. So I gotta thank all my guys. Cody Sauls kept me out as long as he could and it was the right call. I gotta thank him. We’ll be back at Rockingham. We need us a trophy now.”
Young’s race strategy would also earn him the "Brake of the Race" presented by Pro-System.
Brad Rogers started on the pole for Saturday night’s race and as co-leader in the points battle with two races to go, he was out for the win and to accumulate every bonus point possible. He got most of them – lap leader, most laps led, halfway leader - but still left the track without the win and more importantly, without the points lead.
Rogers led the first 88 laps and seemed like an easy choice for the race win. But after halfway, something began to affect his performance. His car began backfiring and the handling also changed drastically for him after bolting on his new tires. He contended for the lead late in the race but dropped back and had to settle for a 3rd place run and now sits second in the points, 9 markers behind Agnew.
Rogers: “I don’t know. I might have a little exhaust leak there or something. The Lamb and Robinson Team did awesome all weekend. It’s just so frustrating. We had the car to beat tonight. We just got in there and cruised. Put the second set of tires on – night and day difference. It was so tight across the middle. That little bit of tight across the middle just made it that free out. - I’m frustrated…”
One of Those Nights
Sitting 4th in points entering Myrtle Beach, J.P. Morgan had an outside shot at capturing the Pro Cup championship and he was at one of his favorite tracks. Unfortunately, the #23 soldbyjackiemorgan.com Impala had ‘one of those nights,’ and was a non-factor, ending up in 7th when the checkered flew. He nearly lost a lap early in the race but recovered briefly after a pit stop. Were his tires just worn out?
Morgan: “No actually, we had a rear sway bar on the car and we had an issue with it. It wasn’t working like it needed to and we had a little issue with it early in practice. Got everything kind of worked out, but then it came back. You know we got it somewhat solved, but it just wasn’t our night. The tires can only make up for so much and when that tire starts to wear down just a little, then it really starting showing again. We ended up finishing 7th, but we’d hoped for better.”
“We’d been racing here since late model days, back in 1999 and all through then. In this series, I’ve run probably the last 6-7 years, so we knew what we needed to do. We got the car figured out, we got it where we were fast at the end of practice. But when that happens, I mean, it’s not something you can successfully fix in the race. So it left us in the position we were in, so we just had to ride it out.”
Chad McCumbee is a name known to many race fans. He’s had many starts in the NASCAR Truck, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup Series as well as winning races in the ARCA Series. Saturday night, he got behind the wheel of the #11 T3R team, working with Cal Boprey and Bryan Silas to make his first Pro Cup start.
McCumbee: “I’d always had interest in the series for years now. When I found out the series was coming back to Myrtle Beach, obviously that place is very special to me and any time there’s any type of special event there, we look to see if maybe we could put something together. We just got to talking about it and made it work there, so we enjoyed it and maybe we’ve got some more coming.”
Starting 7th and moving into the top 3 early in the race, McCumbee and his team chose to keep him out on the track during a caution period when all of the other teams pitted to make either their required fuel or tire stop. Since he was new to the series, CARS Officials made sure that the team was aware of the Pro Cup pit stop rules (2 mandatory stops - can’t take both tires and fuel on same stop) so they would not find themselves in a bind later in the race. Were they unaware of the rule?
McCumbee: “No, we felt like it was just a bit too early and we wanted to get that clean air and lead some laps. And we felt like our car was easily good enough to do that because we were moving forward, I felt like. We kind of wanted to have fuel and tires somewhat near the same time, just because of keeping our balance correct. We just felt like we were pretty good at that time and I had been somewhat familiar with the two pit stop stuff because back a couple years ago, in the Truck Series, we couldn’t take fuel and tires at the same time. I wasn’t as familiar with the commitment line at the Start/Finish [to drop down to pit]. That kind of threw me off a little bit, so I had to remember that. ”
McCumbee led for 29 laps during his time at the front of the field, but when he did finally pit for tires later in the race, he wasn’t quite as pleased with the car during the second half of the race.
McCumbee: “I was really happy with our car until the first tire pit stop. I felt we had a car to beat and a car to compete for the win easily. We were just riding along there – just making laps. When we put our second set of tires on, we weren’t quite as good there. I don’t know what the difference was there, but that set of tires, whatever the reason, just changed the handle on our race car a little bit. And we weren’t able to be as good as I thought we were going to be at the end there."
While eventually working his way back up near the front, the Supply, NC driver was only able to muster a 4th place finish by the end of the race. His thoughts on his first Pro Cup race?
McCumbee: “There were obviously a bunch of really good competitors at Myrtle Beach and I felt like the race was very competitive. A lot of times down there, you get a couple of guys that may get something good and stink up the show. But I think the race was probably great to watch for the fans and it was fun for the drivers. I was really pleased with how everything went and thought it was a great weekend.”
Good Run Turns Bad
Cale Conley looked to be another driver who might pull off a victory at Myrtle Beach. In his first race at the track, he raced hard with fellow Rookie competitor Blake Jones in the early laps.
Conley: "I was trying to be aggressive early in the race to secure a good position because I did not feel we were fast in the beginning. I did not want to go a lap down."
The 19 year old driver from West Virginia used an early tire strategy to his advantage and would lead 22 laps during the middle portion of the race. He got tires just after halfway and moved quickly through the field and was up to second in less than 15 laps, eventually passing Brad Rogers for the lead around lap 117. It would also be the first laps he had led in Pro Cup competition. Was taking new tires early going to be a problem?
Conley: "I think it was a good experience because Rockingham's track surface is very abrasive and similar to Myrtle Beach. It was good experience to see the difference in old tires and fresh tires. Our strategy didn't change. We were just hoping that there weren't going to be anymore cautions."
While leading the race, Conley encountered lapped traffic in turn one when one of the cars he was passing slipped up in front of him. Quick reactions by Conley saw him dive low to avoid a wreck and also pass both lapped cars before exiting turn 2. The on-track performance earned him the "Kool Move of the Race" presented by KOOLMAT.
Conley: "My initial plan was to go high, but when I couldn't do that, I had enough control with the fresh tires to get back down to the bottom of the race track. Thanks for the KOOLMAT award, I hope to get many more of those in the future!"
His luck would not hold out later in the race, when he made contact with the turn 1 wall while avoiding a wreck in front of him. The car did not sustain race-ending damage, but when he pitted for repairs, his team put on four more BFGoodrich radials, drawing a penalty from CARS officials for violating the tire limit rule. Conley would end the race listed in 11th position, losing several laps due to the penalty.
Conley: "Unfortunately, I got into the fence and it knocked the car out of toe. That made the car very inconsistent to drive. When we came down pit road, we obviously had to change the right front. The team saw the left front was losing air pressure and they decided to change the left side, too. I will be at Rockingham. I am looking forward to it as it will be my last race of my 2011 season."
With two drivers tied for the points lead coming into the race and another only one point behind, something was bound to change in the battle for the CARS Pro Cup points chase. With the win, Jeff Agnew took command by 9 points over Brad Rogers with one race to go. Left out of the fun at Myrtle Beach was Caleb Holman. The driver of the #75 Food Country USA Dodge had been a points co-leader along with Rogers, but was unable to have obtain the results he and the team were hoping for on Saturday night. Finishing 5th and never really challenging for the lead, Holman finds himself 34 points back heading into Rockingham. He lost 34 points in one race which means he could also gain 34 at The Rock to keep the Championship contest a three driver affair.