Unusual Weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway
Team ABF Racing set their sights on the Nicorette 300 at the super-fast Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend. NASCAR standout Brian Vickers piloted the #32 ABF U-Pack Toyota, while Nationwide series regular Jason Leffler was behind the wheel of the #38 Braun Racing Camry as usual. The good news is that they didn't have the rains that they had in California to contend with. The bad news is that the temperature was below freezing for much of the weekend, and qualifying was cancelled due to SNOW!!!
Both ABF cars looked solid during practice. Jason Leffler posted the 4th fastest speed, and Brian Vickers wheeled the #32 entry around the track with the 8th fastest time. With qualifying snowed out, the field was once again set by the NASCAR rule book, which meant that based on last year's point totals, Jason started in the 8th position, and Brian started in 16th.
As the race got underway on Saturday, both ABF cars looked good, although not spectacular. As Brian and Jason wheeled each Toyota Camry around the track, they held position between 10th and 20th. When the third caution flew on lap 49, the crew chiefs for both cars had a decision to make. While Trent Owens elected to keep the #32 out on track to hold on to 12th, Stewart Cooper decided to bring Jason and the #38 down pit road for tires and adjustments.
At this point, the race took a bit of a green flag look, and the field started pitting under the green around lap 85. The #32 encountered some problems on pit road, and had to make an additional stop. After everything cycled through, Vickers found himself a lap down to the leaders. Leffler on the other hand, by virtue of pitting during the last caution, was able to stay on track long enough to lead a lap and collect valuable bonus points before coming to pit road almost ten laps after Vickers.
As the laps continued to click away, each team had a different agenda. While the #38 crew was still contending for a possible win, the #32 team was just hoping to get back onto the lead lap. With six laps to go, it looked as if both drivers' days would end early, as a major wreck nearly took out both the #32 and the #38! Thankfully, both cars escaped undamaged, and the drivers involved walked away without injury.
When the checkered flag fell, Jason Leffler brought the #38 car home in 9th, and Brian Vickers finished a disappointing day in the #32 one lap down in 22nd. Next week, the Nationwide series heads to Bristol, Tennessee for some of the world's best short-track racing! Brian will be looking ahead to next month, when he will take the wheel of the ABF U-Pack Racing machine on the very fast Texas Motor Speedway on April 5th.