The XFINITY Series kicked off the weekend with a couple of practice sessions on Friday afternoon. During both practice sessions, the Sparks Energy Inc team would work on freeing up the car and getting it to turn better in the center on both ends. By the end of final practice the team had made some big improvements from where they started the day off. They would end the day with the 22nd fastest lap time heading into qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
Qualifying was scheduled to begin at 12:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, but Mother Nature had different plans. There had been a light drizzle for most of morning so qualifying had been put on hold. In efforts to squeeze qualifying in and not postpone other on-track activities, NASCAR changed up the format of qualifying a bit. Instead of three rounds of multi-vehicle qualifying, they would cut it down to just one 15-minute round to determine the starting lineup for the Bar Harbor 200. After the 15 minutes had expired Gase had put the No. 35 Sparks Energy Inc. Chevy in the 25th position.
The clouds would still loom for the remainder of the day, but unlike qualifying the rain would stay away for the duration of the Bar Harbor 200. History at the Monster Mile has shown that the race is usually full of wrecks or minimal attrition and long green flag runs. You typically get either end of the spectrum; never in between. The Bar Harbor 200 was one with long green flag runs and very little attrition. Stage one and two went their entire distances without a single caution. Gase had climbed his way up 22nd by the end of the second stage. However, he had fallen two laps down so after the second stage had concluded CC Donahue elected to wave pit road to get one of those laps back.
The field would get the green with 104 laps remaining in the 200 lap affair. The Sparks Energy Inc team was praying for a caution to set them up for the lucky dog and put them back on the lead lap. Unfortunately that caution did not happen. Gase would come down pit road for a green flag pit stop for a fresh set of Goodyear's and fuel.
As Gase was barreling around the track after his pit stop CC Donahue said the car just didn't sound right and the lap times weren't where they should be with fresher tires than most of the field. Shortly after, Gase came over the radio "I think we're blowing up." As he relayed this information to the team the races first caution had come out. They would stay out on the track under the caution to log as many laps and gain as many points as possible. When the wreckage was cleared and the green flag had waved, Gase limped around for another couple laps before pulling into the garage ending his day 24 laps short.
A broken valve stem was determined to have ended the teams day. Once the race had concluded, the Sparks Energy Inc. Chevy ended up in the 30th position.
It was a tough break for the team after they had been running well the past month or so. Although this one stings, the team is still encouraged after a solid month of September that they will bounce back in a couple of weeks. The NASCAR XFINITY Series will have this next weekend off before heading back to Midwest to Kansas Speedway.
Joey Gase PR