“Oh man, each race weekend is like a new movie for me,” said Ricky Carmichael a few days before making the fifth start of his rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Series, this time at Kansas Speedway. “Your friends can see it and tell you about it, but until you see it yourself, you don’t get anything near the full experience of being there. Every new track we race is a learning experience for me. I’m excited to get to Kansas and get on track.”
With a very light rain falling and the skies above Kansas Speedway the color of an aircraft carrier, Hornaday, Skinner and Carmichael saw the green flag in the starter’s hand and promptly smashed gas pedals into aluminum floor and powered down the 10.4-degree banked front stretch and towards the15-degree banked first turn to begin the 167-lap race.
Carmichael was right in the thick of things and battling for third with Chad McCumbee when air was taken off the rear spoiler of his Chevrolet, the rear Goodyear Wrangler Speedway Radials of the truck losing contact with the asphalt and sending the Monster Energy machine into a spin.
“Man, it was so loose I felt like I was doing donuts in every corner,” explained Carmichael. “I had a truck outside of me and it just snapped around. The truck wasn’t hurt, and we were able to continue but it was tough running in heavy traffic. It was so loose I just couldn’t race hard like I wanted to.”
Upon getting the track moving in the correct direction, Carmichael was able to make it back to the pits and get back into the race. Seven laps later, on lap 10, 2006 Truck Series Champion and veteran Todd Bodine hit the wall, bringing out another caution. Once the race went back to green, Carmichael experienced another slow spin on lap number 24, but once again, kept his cool, got the Chevy in and out of the pits and back on the lead lap. From there he made a steady climb up the scoring pylon.
Not long after — on lap number 50 to be precise about it — the sever weather everyone feared came rolling in, heavy rain pelting the Kansas facility. In fact so gnarly was the weather that a tornado touched down just nine miles form the speedway. With the rain falling harder, lightning flashing and the skies becoming darker and darker, NASCAR called the race, postponing it until Monday morning.
After another pitch-black night of fierce rain, Monday morning dawned felt grey with temperatures in the high 50s, the pits and track totally waterlogged. Yet again, NASCAR was forced to put the race into a holding pattern.
Finally, just short of 2 P.M., the track was officially declared dry and the command for the drivers to fire their V8s was given. After a host of pace laps, on lap number 61, the race, finally, went back to green. Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday led the way, while Carmichael was back in a comfortbale18th, 4.511 seconds behind the leaders.
“I don’t know what happened there,” lamented Carmichael of the crash that occurred on lap 71. “I was trying to give him [TJ Bell] room in turn three and I just touched the apron of the track and it snapped around again. The guys worked really hard to fix the truck and were able to go back out and gain a position at the finish.”
Finally, with 40 laps to go and a light rain falling, his Truck held together with safety wire, duct tape and rivets, Carmichael reentered the race to gain some valuable seat time.
“Just last year was the first time Ricky was racing a four wheel vehicle,” said TV analyst and former NASCAR driver Phil Parsons of RC’s return. “Ricky’s really doing a nice job and really learning. Whenever Kevin Harvick and KHI can put him on a racetrack, they do it. There’s good things ahead for Ricky.”
With 35 laps remaning in the race, yet again, the rains came and unleashed their fury on Kansas City, the red flag was thrown and the trucks idled to a stop on pit lane, were shut off and promptly wrapped in car covers.
Finally (and mercifully), after taking three days to run 132 laps, at 4:45 P.M. (Central Time) NASCAR pulled the plug on the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250. And with that, Ricky Carmichael was scored in the 23rd finishing position.
“It’s frustrating to see how hard the guys work and then we have a couple of spins and end up with a bad finish,” said a somewhat dejected Carmichael after the race. “I see my teammate, Ron Hornaday, out there leading the race, so I know I have great equipment under me.”