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Stremme Battles to Top-20 Finish at Auto Club Speedway

October 12, 2009

Photo Courtesy of Autostock

FONTANA, Calif. (October 11, 2009) - Driver David Stremme and the No. 12 Penske Dodge team overcame an ill-handling race car Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway to earn a 16th-place finish in the Pepsi 500.

As soon as Stremme took the green flag in the Penske Dodge Charger from the 14th spot Sunday afternoon, he reported a very tight-handling condition on the No. 12. Stremme fought to maintain control of the machine as he fell to 33rd place in the running order.

Stremme fell no lower than the 35th position and held on until the first round of pit stops on lap 38. Crew chief Roy McCauley called for track bar and wedge adjustments to help free up the car's handling through the corners. Stremme rejoined the race in 35th place and reported that the Penske Dodge was much better. By lap 50, Stremme radioed the team to report that the machine was now running loose on the exit of the corners, but still tight in the middle of the turns.

McCauley instructed the Penske Racing crew to make air pressure, track bar and wedge changes on the No. 12 during the next round of pit stops

The team continued to try and improve the car's performance with additional adjustments on its next visit to pit lane on lap 79. McCauley was confident the changes would work well as the sun emerged over Auto Club Speedway and began to warm the race track. On lap 91, Stremme reported that he had noticed the improvement. "Much better, I just have to work through some traffic here," he informed the team.

McCauley confirmed the improvements. "Your times are a lot better," said the crew chief. "We just need to get you some [track] position."

On lap 117, the yellow flag was displayed to the field and Stremme told McCauley that he didn't think the car required any changes. The crew bolted on four fresh Goodyear tires and sent Stremme back onto the race track. The car remained tight in the corners and Stremme relayed that the Penske Dodge began to have the same effect when in heavy traffic.

The crew continued to try and address the issues with the car's handling. McCauley asked for further track bar changes on Stremme's next to trip lane, which came under the caution on lap 190.

Stremme took advantage of clean air runs, posting lap times consistent with the leaders and gaining valuable spots during the next segment of the race. On lap 227, the race leaders visited pit road under green flag conditions for fuel and tires. McCauley informed the team that the car had approximately 10 laps of fuel remaining, so Stremme stayed out on track and the crew waited for a caution period. The gamble paid off as the yellow flag came out on lap 234. Stremme then brought the Penske Dodge down pit road for two tires and a splash of fuel.

Just nine laps later, a multi-car crash brought the field to a stop under a red flag. The No. 12 crew's quick work on their next pit stop earned the team the lead position on the trailing lap and with it came the "Lucky Dog" free pass. Back on the lead lap and back under a caution period, Stremme brought his machine back down pit road for its final set of fresh tires. With only three laps remaining in the race, Stremme took the green flag restart in the 18th position. He improved over the final stage of the race to bring the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge across the line in the 16th position.

"We had a rough day, but we walked out of there with a top-20 finish," said Stremme, who is now 30th in the driver point standings. "We'll take it and head back home ready to improve on this result."

Next weekend, Stremme and the No. 12 Penske Dodge team visit Lowe's Motor Speedway to compete in the NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America. ABC will provide live television coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 17.