Time sure flies, especially when you’re having fun. Last weekend marked the 17th time in my career that I was part of the “Big Go” — the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. It still seems just like yesterday that I made my first trip to Indy in a Mopar-powered Pro Stock car. The U.S. Nationals also marked the end of the regular season and it’s now go time for our J&J Racing team, and I couldn’t be more excited, as we chase our first Pro Stock title.
It may have taken two weekends, but we were finally able to complete the U.S. Nationals last weekend, and this time around Mother Nature cooperated. I just love going to Indy. We always have a chance to go downtown and eat at St. Elmo’s, the Capital Grille and also Mo’s, which has amazing steaks. Downtown Indy is so awesome and I enjoy every minute we get to spend there. It’s definitely one of my favorite races of the year, and is always a thrill for me. It was a little different this year with the race being pushed into a second weekend by rain, but it was still a great event and a lot of the fans were able to stick around all week or come back for Saturday and Sunday.
Unfortunately, the weekend didn’t quite end like we were hoping for. We kind of gave one away in my opinion, and it’s obviously disappointing. As a driver, I just made a mistake while staging the car, that’s all there is to it. This is the first time in a long time that I haven’t made it to the semifinals in Indy. Better it happened there rather than this week in Charlotte during the opening race of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. I always try to make a positive out of a negative.
We didn’t run quite as good as we should have during qualifying, but we picked it up on Sunday during eliminations and had the fastest car in both of the rounds we ran. I think we have the car back to where it was during previous races. We found a few things after qualifying that were a little bit off and we corrected those. Knowing that makes us all feel good going into the Countdown.
We’ve been testing everything we can think of to get this car perfect heading into the Countdown, and we’ll continue to do whatever it takes. We have great engines in our HEMI powerplants and a great car in our Mopar Dodge Avenger. We just need to tune the driver up a little bit.
Being in the No. 1 spot to open the Countdown, we received 20 bonus points and have a 30 point lead, which basically puts us a round-and-a-half ahead of the field. We’ll be shooting to get the extra points that are on the line during each qualifying session. Those points are huge during the Countdown with how tight the field is in Pro Stock. Every point matters. If we can do what we’ve done the last six or eight races and continue to get those extra points in qualifying it will really help us.
We need to go down to Charlotte this week hitting on all eight cylinders with everything, including the driver, and I believe we’ll do that. It’s going to be a knock out, drag out battle till the end of the year. There are about five cars that have a legitimate shot at this thing and will be scratching and pawing at it. It’s going to come down to who does the best job in all facets of their program both on and off the track. We’re ready and looking forward to it. We are relaxed going into the Countdown, which I believe is important, and we are going to have fun with it.
Like I’ve said to a lot of people this year, we just need to continue to be consistent and stay focused. We’re going to take it round-by-round over the next six races, whether it’s in qualifying or eliminations. I can’t wait to get to Charlotte this week and get after it. Our goal all year has been to deliver a Pro Stock championship to our friends at Mopar for their 75th Anniversary and that challenge begins now.