Hendrick Motorsports

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Driver Diary: Blake Feese At IRP

(Editor’s Note: As part of Hendrick Motorsports’ driver development program, 22-year-old Blake Feese will compete in several NASCAR Busch Series races this season. The Saybrook, Ill. ,native will pilot the No. 87 Chevrolets of NEMCO Motorsports through a developmental alliance formed between the team and HMS. Feese made his first career Busch Series start June 19 at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying 16th and finishing 41st in the ditech.com Chevy. On Aug. 7 he competed in the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.)

The Busch Series race at IRP is referred to by many on the circuit as the longest day of the season—practice, qualifying and the event are all held that Saturday. The No. 87 ditech.com team rolled into the garage area early Saturday morning and didn’t leave until after midnight.

Though we struggled a bit throughout the day, I was able gain some seat time, which is really crucial for me, given my limited amount of stock car experience.

I grew up in Illinois watching my dad and cousins race, so the sport has always been a part of my life. As a kid, I looked up to sprint car greats Steve Kinser and Jack Hewitt, so I was thrilled when my family purchased a quarter midget from my cousins when I was 10.

Since then I’ve competed in World of Outlaws, USAC and All-Star sprint car races, and won feature events at Eldora Speedway in Ohio and The Dirt Track@ Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Making the move to full-bodied stock cars has brought some challenges. The Busch Series cars weigh a lot more than the sprint cars I’m used to running, so I had to alter my driving style. Overall, though, my transition has gone fairly well so far; a lot better than I expected.

To get ready for IRP, the team and I tested at the facility in July. The session went really well. When we left, the team and I were very happy with the car and figured we’d be good for the race.

After the test, I had to focus on getting myself both mentally and physically prepared for the run at IRP. I started by watching the tape from last year’s race to get an idea of what to expect. I also talked with a few of the other Hendrick drivers to get some pointers.

At the beginning of practice the car just wasn’t handling quite right. I came back into the garage area and the team decided to go over the notes from our test and make some changes. By the end of practice we had gotten the car dialed in and were seventh fastest in the session.

For qualifying the team decided to loosen the car up a bit because the track had cooled off. However, the car ended up being too loose. When I went out on the track I turned a lap of 23.049 seconds (107.146 mph), placing me 42nd in the 50-car field. The team was granted a provisional starting spot, so I took the green flag in 39th position.

In the race, I got behind early because of the starting position. Then the lower control arm broke and I took the car into the garage area for the team to work on it. Once it was fixed, I went back out on the track and the car felt great. It was just too bad that I was 42 laps down to the leader at the time because the car felt as good as it did when I tested there back in July.

Since I was out of contention for a top finish, I just concentrated on making as many laps as I could to get more experience, and ended the race in 33rd position. The No. 5 Lowe’s Chevrolet of Kyle Busch held off Johnny Sauter to win the event.  I’d like to congratulate Kyle and his team on their fourth victory of the 2004 season.

I wasn’t thrilled with my team’s results, but I did get more seat time in a stock car, so the night was still a productive one.

The more I’m in these cars, the more I get a feel for what they need, and the more comfortable I get. I think I’m adapting pretty well, and I look forward to my next Busch Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in September.


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