In the Pits- KSR
COT seems to suit Schrader, Wood Brothers
If the results from the spring Martinsville race are any indication, Ken Schrader and the Wood Brothers/ JTG Race Team are starting to heat up along with the weather.
After qualifying fourth, Schrader drove the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford to a 19th place finish in the Goody’s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway, easily the team’s best start and finish of the young season. As one wag put it, “NASCAR’s eldest speedway was kind to NASCAR’s eldest driver,” a reference to the 51-year-old Schrader (he’ll turn 52 on May 29), who clearly has a few tricks left up his sleeve.
Schrader dodged trouble during 15 separate caution flag periods on the tight half-mile speedway located just 30 minutes from the Wood Brothers hometown of Stuart, VA. Schrader ran in the top 15 for most of the day, climbed as high as seventh place following a re-start late in the race and posted some of the day’s fastest lap times in an impressive showing for the famed No. 21 team.
“I think that’s about what we needed,” Schrader said after the race. “We should have finished better. But this place is a struggle every lap, and you have to be on top of your game out on the track and in the pits. The guys on this team performed all day. We didn’t have to make all that many adjustments on the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford.
“It was a good weekend for us, all around. We nailed it in qualifying and ran top-15 pretty much all day. The guys deserve it and these sponsors deserve it. We’re fighters, and I think it showed during the last few weeks, and it definitely showed again today.”
Martinsville marked just the second race involving NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow,” a racecar geared toward increased safety and featuring a two-inch taller frame and a four-inch wider chassis than its predecessor. The COT also has a rear wing, not a spoiler, and a front air dam splitter commonly seen on the current Craftsman Truck Series models.
The week before Martinsville, the Car of Tomorrow made its debut at Bristol where Schrader and the No. 21 car qualified 15th and finished 28th after incurring a late-race pit road penalty that dropped the team a lap down and hindered what might have been a much better finish. That being said, the crew once again proved their mettle under serious battle conditions and fought the good fight as the day wore on.
Before the race, Schrader said, “It’s pretty clear that nobody has much of an idea what to expect…what the race will be like.”
Based on the first two races, the Car of Tomorrow seems to suit Schrader and the Wood Brothers/JTG team just fine today.