AJ equals best finish at MichiganJune 18, 2007
BROOKLYN, MI- Since we were starting from the 43rd spot, AJ’s attitude for heading into Sunday’s Citizens Bank 400 was “well there’s only way to go and that’s up!” The 84 got off to a clean start and by Lap 10 had moved up to 37th. We knew were had an engine that might be down a little on power and on Lap 29 we it caught up us on it and we went a lap down.
Nonetheless AJ was feeling pretty good about the car. It was a little tight and on the first pit stop on Lap 36 under green, crew chief Ricky Viers ordered the changes the Camry needed. The 84 went back out and AJ radioed on that it was much better. Under a yellow on Lap 53, Viers honed the changes, taking out wedge and adjusting the tire pressures. The changes all worked and AJ was making gains on the track and had worked up to 33rd by Lap 68.
A multi-car incident on Lap 74 that also collected Red Bull teammate Brian Vickers, moved AJ up the grid to 29th. The 84 continued to take the lead of the Camry and work with its changing needs, but by all accounts were running strong lap times and moving forward. We were scheduled to come in for a stop on Lap 114 and Ricky called AJ in to pit, just then the 96 spun and the yellow came out. Quick work on everyone’s part caught the break and AJ managed to stay out to take advantage of the yellow pit window. It was tense for a bit though, as Viers ordered AJ to save fuel to make it to the lap when pit would open. We came in on Lap 117, made a minor adjustment and added four tires and fuel, rejoining in 28th position.
The car was getting loose in the 100 degree heat, but AJ stayed with it and continued to move up. AJ had also started to loose his breaks and was doing his best to work them. He rubbed the wall a little on Lap 142, but continued on and had worked up to 25th. Then on Lap 152 the right front tire went down and AJ nursed it around to the pits, having to stop about 10 laps earlier than the next scheduled pit stop. The crew did a great job and got him back out but under the green conditions, we had gone another lap down.
The Camry continued to feel pretty good for AJ and despite the issues, had worked back up to 28th. Unfortunately, having to stop early for the tire would end up costing us a finish in the 20’s. On Lap 192, the 84 had to come in for a splash of 4 seconds of fuel. We were just five laps short of what we needed. AJ came back out and equaled his season-best finish with a 31st result.
“We can’t say today wasn’t a good day for us, all things considered,” said AJ. “We had struggled all weekend and knew what our problems were, but I think we all made the most of it and learned a lot today. I wish we could have pulled out a finish in the 20’s to show for it.”