What's up, guys!
Martinsville was a long weekend, thanks to Mother Nature. One thing about racing on a Monday is that it throws your whole week out of order. Race-car drivers are creatures of habit and anything that disrupts that can be annoying. We are programmed to think that by Sunday evening we have finished one race and are moving on - mentally, that is - to the next one. The important thing is that we got the race in for the fans. They are the people that pay their money to come to the race and sometimes it's just not possible for them to stick around, but we had a pretty strong crowd. Thanks to those fans that were able to stay an extra day.
This was my first Cup series race at Martinsville and before I ever got to the garage I'd heard all the stories about how first-time drivers don't run well there. Experience is the only key to success at the "paper-clip." I quickly found out that they were right. Truth be told, the car was better than I was when the race started, but I also thought that I picked up on the track quickly. Unfortunately, qualifying was rained out and we had to start 30th, based on this year's owner points. My crew chief, Jay Guy, made a great call early in the race to stay out under a caution and we picked up a lot of track position by doing that. It's amazing what you can learn by running up front with guys like Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson. By the end of the race I thought we were as good as anyone and we had a legitimate shot at a top-10 finish, but we got shuffled back on a double-file restart.
While we were disappointed not to come home with the first top-10 of the season for the No. 12 Penske Dodge, we have to look at the big picture. We've now had back-to-back top-15 runs with this team. Obviously, we want to consistently run inside the top-10 and challenge for wins, but we are seeing progress every week and that is encouraging. Honestly, we've only had one bad race, which was Las Vegas. Other than that our cars have been competitive. Now we're coming up on tracks where I have prior Cup experience and that should help us be better prepared when we get there. Strong runs over these next three races will allow us to make up the points we lost early in the year.
Easter is this Sunday and that means the Cup series is off, but we have a Nationwide Series race in Nashville. Our Nationwide program has really taken off under Paul Wolfe. I fought hard to get him to come to Penske Racing because I knew we could have success. We're very close to a win with the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge and I can't think of a better place to do that than Nashville. It's where I got my first Nationwide win in 2008 and I would love to get another one of those Gibson guitars designed by Sam Bass. That has to be one of the coolest trophies in sports.
Oh, I almost forgot. Keep your eyes out for my new Discount Tire commercial with my friend Jeff Hammond. I thought they turned out great, but I may be a little biased. If you visit the Penske Racing Facebook page you can view them right now!
See you in Victory Lane!