Tab Boyd. The End of an Era: Phoenix II

I always enjoy trips out to Phoenix. The mountains and desert are very different from the state that I grew up in and it’s cool to be driving down the road and see a giant cactus out in the desert. While packing my bags for this trip I realized that this was the last time I would be wearing a Texaco/Havoline shirt at the track. The Phoenix race would be the last for the Texaco/Havoline sponsorship of our race team…in racing period. It is sad to me because since I have been old enough to remember, there has been a Texaco/Havoline car on the track. I will miss spotting that black race car with the bright orange hood that is so easy to pick out of the pack.

Friday practice went OK, with a 26th-place qualifying effort to follow. We have been in that range for some time, but I am confident that we can improve it for 2009. Saturday practice was also sort of routine with multiple changes. Toward the end of practice I think we came upon something that helped the car and gave us something to look forward to when the race started.

Saturday night after the track closed, Texaco/Havoline took the entire crew out to race go-carts! It has been a tradition for years and we had a great time and a lot of laughs. Juan raced with us and that is something that you don’t get to do every day!

My main goal of the race was to finish it out. The last couple of weeks had been very rough. Even though we have been running very well, we have not had the finishes due to odd circumstances. I knew we would run pretty well, we just needed to stay out of trouble, and there is plenty of opportunity for it at Phoenix! As the race started Juan passed a few cars and had good position early in the race. After running about 47 laps the wind started picking up and a rain cloud popped up in the desert! It rained just enough to get the track wet and the race was red flagged for a bit. Once the race was restarted, the wind picked up tremendously. There were huge gusts and looking out into the mountains and open land it was a huge dust storm! It was so bad at times I had trouble seeing the cars on the other side of the track. We were right in the middle of it! It was one of the craziest things that I had ever seen.

The race continued on and there were a few close calls. It seems the lapped cars are racing us extra hard lately and it is really aggravating. Cars that are two laps down race you like it is for the win. I don’t know what their deal is but it caused a huge crash one time. Juan was trying to pass the 5 car and he was being held up by Robby Gordon who was running two laps down. Juan pulled down and was inside of the 5 car, and at the same time the 5 pulled down to pass the lapped car and it put them three wide going through the “dogleg” and that usually doesn’t turn out good. If the lapped car would have been a little more courteous then it would have never happened. Once that was over with, we were getting into the final stages of the race. We had a top-15 car and maybe be a little better with some late race strategy. With just a few laps left Brian decided to take on four tires for the final two-lap dash to the checkered. I agreed with the call because new tires mean so much lately and we were the last car on the lead lap. Juan almost made something of it, but was held up terribly by a car being too careful not to wreck his teammate (10 car). Coming to the checkered flag a couple cars got together and there was a huge crash coming to the line. We wrecked after the checkered flag but we completed the race, so I guess the goal was met? Anyway, I hate when we tear up cars because it is so hard and takes an enormous amount of time to build them. We got out of Phoenix with a 17th-place finish in our final race with a Texaco/Havoline car…an end of an era.

Now it is off to Miami for our final race of the year. We are looking for good things down there and Juan is driving in the Nationwide race on Saturday (yes I will be spotting!). I am staying down there for a few days after the race so I probably will not write until about Wednesday or Thursday for my final thoughts of the year….so don’t panic! Hope everyone has a great week and I will talk to you late next week! Thanks.

-Tab

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