Carmichael Rallies for Eighth at Martinsville

April 4, 2011 2:10pm

Race/Date:                    Kroger 250 – April 2, 2011
Venue:                          Martinsville Speedway
Start:                            20th
Finish:                          Eighth
Points Standing:           12th

Ricky Carmichael and the Monster Energy Racing team rallied to overcome worn tires and late race misfortune to knock down a solid eighth-place finish in Saturday’s Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Carmichael raced inside the top five for much of the day, led 36 laps and matched his best finish of the four-race-young 2011 season. Meanwhile, the 31-year-old driver jumped seven spots and rocketed from 19th to 12th in the driver point standings.

With the exception of a hiccup in qualifying, it was a solid weekend from beginning to end for the Monster Energy team.

The 15-time AMA National Champion clocked in with the 11th-fastest time in Friday morning’s opening practice session posting a fast lap of 20.302 seconds (93.272 mph). The weekend continued on the upswing during the event’s final warm-up with the Tallahassee, Fla., resident putting up the seventh-quickest time of the 36 trucks to make laps.

In Saturday morning’s qualifying session, Carmichael struggled with a loose-handling Monster Energy machine and was able to log just the 20th-best time of the session, leaving him a starting spot on the outside of the 10th row.

The green flag waved on Saturday at 2:13 p.m. local time under partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures.

Carmichael patiently logged laps over the first third of the 250-lap event and was just outside the top 10 before making his first pit stop of the afternoon during the fourth yellow flag of the day. As the race wore on and yellow flags continued to fly and various race strategies played out, Carmichael and his Mark Rette-led team stayed the course and continued to climb the leaderboard.

By lap 77 he cracked the top three and was on top of the scoreboard one lap later. Over the next 80 circuits, the father of twins led laps and was a fixture inside the top three.

Contact with another truck while jockeying for position forced Carmichael to spin on lap 158 but after another fresh set of tires, the Monster Energy Chevy was none the worse for the wear.

As the laps continued to click off, Carmichael continued a steady rise up the scoring pylon and was back inside the top five by lap 185. He was third two laps later and second with 40 to go.

With over 70 laps on his tires and the handling of his Turner Motorsports-prepared machine starting to fade, Carmichael got pushed up into the outside lane during a late-race restart and free-fell to 14th.  It took a few laps before he could make his way back to the preferred inside line but, once he did, he was able to make up six spots over the closing laps and finish eighth, matching his best finish of the year.

Carmichael’s fellow Turner Motorsports teammates Brad Sweet and James Buescher were credited with 15th- and 35th-place finishes, respectively. Buescher was involved in a lap 134 incident with Jeffery Earnhardt ending his day 116 laps early.

The teams and trucks of the NCWTS will take a three week respite before returning to racing action Easter Weekend at Nashville Superspeedway.

Live coverage of the Bully Hill Vineyards 200 from Nashville Superspeedway will take the green flag Friday, April 22 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The race will be televised live on SPEED and broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 128. Qualifying for the fifth of 25 events on the 2011 NCWTS calendar will be televised on SPEED the same day at 5:30 p.m. EDT.

“Front to back, that was one of the best races I’ve had since I started racing on four wheels. We struggled in qualifying but when the green flag waved, the Monster Energy Chevrolet Silverado was on a rail. It was as fast as anything out there all day. Personally, I think that’s the best race I’ve ever run. I was able to pass guys, make my way to the front and stay there. We lost some ground at the end but I was able to get a handful of those spots back and finish eighth. It feels great to come out of Martinsville not only with the truck in one piece but with a good finish to show for everyone’s hard work.”