Martinsville, Va. (October 26, 2009) – Driver David Stremme and the Penske Dodge team were on track for another NASCAR Cup Series top-20 finish on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway before gear problems forced an early end to the Tums Fast Relief 500 and a 33rd-place finish for the No. 12 squad.
Stremme entered Sunday’s 500-lap race facing several unknowns. The team had limited practice time during the weekend due to bad weather, but the No. 12 crew was confident they had a car that would be competitive come Sunday afternoon.
Stremme rolled off for the start of the event in the 11th position. After 35 laps, he radioed to his team to explain that the Penske Dodge was handling tight in the center and loose coming out of the turns. Crew chief
When the caution flag was displayed to the field on lap 43, the team prepared to welcome Stremme and the Penske Dodge Charger to pit lane. The No.12 arrived in the pits three laps later for service. The team changed two right side tires and filled the car with racing fuel. The crew also made both trackbar and air pressure adjustments to the machine to try and improve its handling through the corners.
The red and black No.12 car restarted the race in the 13th spot, looking to continue its march toward the front of the field. Unfortunately, the two right side tires affected the performance of the Penske Racing machine and Stremme began to fall back in the running order. By lap 100, Stremme had dropped to the 23rd spot. Stremme told the team he needed the car to turn better in the middle of the flat corners on the track. McCauley contemplated the changes the No.12 team would make during the next round of pit stops.
Knowing he had to be smart and take care of his car to last all 500 laps, Stremme was patient with the Penske Dodge. At the halfway point of the race, the No. 12 car was positioned in 23rd place. Stremme radioed the team on lap 289 to explain that the car was still running tight in the corners, but it was producing good forward bite coming out of the turns. The tight-handling condition did not prevent the experienced Cup Series racer from ticking off the fastest laps on the track. Stremme was consistently posting quick lap times around the half-mile speedway. He took his time passing competitors, setting them up on the entry of the turns and getting by them coming off the corners as he moved inside the top-20.
Stremme made a rare green flag pit stop on lap 435. The crew filled the car with enough fuel to make it to the finish and they bolted on four fresh Goodyear tires. The team also made a trackbar adjustment as it hoped to correct the tight-handling car Stremme was fighting in the corners.
Seven laps later, the Penske Racing driver informed his team that there was something wrong with the rear end of the car. McCauley ordered the No. 12 to the garage so the team could assess the situation. After further review, the team discovered the Penske Dodge had a rear-end gear failure, which forced an early end to the race for the No. 12 squad.
Stremme was credited with a 33rd-place finish. He remained 30th in Cup Series point standings with four events remaining on the 2009 schedule.
“I hate we didn’t get to finish the race,” commented Stremme. “We qualified well and felt like we had a car capable of running in the top-20. We struggled early in a run, but our car really came to life after about 20 laps. As a team, we made significant improvement from the spring race (at Martinsville). Our car was just a bit too tight in the center of the corners. We are going to one of my favorite tracks next week and I am looking forward to a strong run in our Penske Dodge.”
Next week, Stremme and the No. 12 team will head to the biggest track on the Cup Series circuit – Talladega Superspeedway. The Amp Energy 500 will be aired live on Sunday, November 1. Race coverage will begin at 12 p.m. ET on the ABC television network. The race will also be broadcast live on MRN Radio.