Auto Club 500 halted at lap 87 by Kellyanne Lynch
25 February 2008
Ten hours ago, the Auto Club 500 was scheduled to start. Eight hours ago, the green flag over today's Sprint Cup race at California Speedway. Rain overtook the area on Friday and continued to wreak havock on the track throughout Saturday and Sunday. Cup qualifying was cancelled, Cup practice was reduced to twenty-five minutes all weekend, and the Nationwide race was postponed. Today's race ran for three hours with seven cautions and a one-hour red flag that made for start-and-stop momentum. The red flag came out for the second time five hours ago. At 2:00am ET, NASCAR made the call to postpone the race until 1:00pm tomorrow morning. The Nationwide race, which has been delayed already for over thirty hours, is now slated to start immediately following the Sprint Cup event.
"Testing 1, 2, 3," somebody said over the #55 frequency at 6:05pm ET." Hear everything? Okay. New headset. Just making sure,"
"Got a copy, Mike?" asked spotter Mark Green moments later.
"Hello, spotter!" Mikey replied.
"I got you loud and and clear."
"That's always good."
Crew chief Paul Andrews told Mark he was getting information on the competition caution
"So what all do I do here?" Mikey asked. "It says I got the rear fan on, it says?" Nobody answered him on the radio.
The call to start engines came at 6:08pm.
Mikey brought up how they had run here last year - running in the back until the last fifty laps and finishing 11th. He told his team he wanted them to understand that they had a long day ahead of them. "Mark, keep me out of trouble." He requested. He also asked his spotter to encourage him to be patient.
"10-4. We'll do it," Mark replied. At 6:12pm, he said, "All right, Mike. The front of the field here is just now moving."
Cars took to the track after the two hour rain delay. Due to the weather this weekend, qualifying was cancelled. The sanctioning body started 2007 Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on the pole.
"Okay, Mike, he's at pit road speed there when they get bunched up there," Mark noted a moment later.
"Mark, I reckon I have a bunch of lights in here to remind me what I need to do," Mikey replied. He said he was reading 4800. "Where's my pit? At the Turn 4 end?"
"Yeah, 10-4," Paul replied. Static followed.
"You're the third stall in," Mark said.
"We've got some serious static here. Mark, it sounds like you're being too casual with me. I can't hear shit." Static followed. "... Or something. Is that me?"
"You got something leaking there." Mikey said something they must have a loose line. "I don't have any oil pressure now."
"Kevin. Kevin Lee, where are you?"
"Tell her I need a push, Mark," Mikey asked.
"10-4," Mark replied.
The #55 crawled along the bottom of the track. A wiggins clamp had come off the car, and oil was spurting out the back. FOX got a shot of his rear spoiler, which was covered with oil.
"They're on their way, Mike," Mark said. "He's right there behind you."
A tow truck got up behind the #55 and pushed it to the pits.
"Where did you see the oil comign from? Where was it coming from?" Paul asked.
"It's coming out of the back of the car, man," Mikey replied. "It's all gone. That's kind of a silly question,"
Paul told his team to get ready to get the quarter window out of the car. The crew jacked up the left side.
"Need a number twelve wiggins clamp, a number twelve wiggins clamp," a crew member said. "Somebody got some oil here?"
Somebody told the crew member - Rod - that someone was on the way with it.
"Have you checked it to see how much is in there yet?" Rod asked.
Cars continued to complete pace laps as the crew continued to work on the #55 car. Speedy dry was being cleaned off the track too.
"How much oil is underneath the back, I mean underneath the car so I don't slide in my own oil?" Mikey asked.
Somebody told Mikey they were cleaning it up now. Someone else said they needed a bunch of oil and a funnel, then asked for "the next size bigger wiggins."
"Make sure nobody puts gas in it," Mikey reminded.
"10-4," Paul replied. "Get all that stuff wiped up there, guys."
"As long as they're not saying one to go, you need to clean the crap some more," Mikey told his team.
Somebody said they had another lap or two of caution. Paul talked about cleaning under the car, by the transmission.
"You need to tell this official..." Mikey began
"I'll gladly tell him," somebody replied.
"It's not up to him to be an asshole. He's here to help us." A moment later, Mikey asked. "Do we need to spin the pressure up?"
Paul said get ready for left side tires. Then he told the crew to raise the hood to adjust the pressures. "How's your left rear tire look?"
"If we've got time, I'd change four," Mikey adviced.
"Probably got about two, maybe three laps before they get it cleaned up," Mark estimated.
"You ready to start it, Kevin? Okay, let's spin it over and start it," Paul said. "Trying to get some right sides on it. Something's going on in the back here. Left side up, left side up."
"Okay, go when they get here. They're just getting off of four. It'll be two to go," Mark told the team.
"All right," Paul replied. "Help Kevin with the funnel. Okay, go ahead and start it up."
"Everything look good in there, Mike?" somebody asked.
Mikey looked at his gauges and replied. "Yeah."
The Napa Camry left pit road and joined the field.
"4800. Tail of the field over there is just off of 2," Mark said. "Got a tractor down there on your right side." The spotter guided Mikey around the trucks and told him he had one lap to go before the start.
Paul told Mikey to get some heat in his brakes.
"You want to change it or not?" Mikey asked.
"No, everything's good. You get a little heat in there and burn it right off."
"You've got to get in there and take a breath, shake this thing off," Ty Norris coached Mikey. He reminded him they were after points.
Mark reminded Mikey no passing before the start line. Paul told him to check the oil pressure every chance he got "so you don't kill yourself here."
The green flag waved at 6:32pm. Jeff Gordon jumped into the lead and was out front for the first lap. Dale rolled off 37th while David was 40th.
"45 slow there in the middle," warned Mark. "Still outside. Clear, clear."
"41.60, last two laps," Paul said.
By lap 4, David was up to 32nd. Dale was back to 40th while Mikey rode 41st.
Lap 5 saw Mikey get around Dale for 40th. David was 30th.
"Still there, still there, still there. Clear now. Clear," Mark guided.
"I'm, like, way too loose. Way too loose," Mikey reported on lap 7.
"10-4," Paul replied. "42.15."
On lap 8, Mikey got around John Andretti for 39th. Meanwhile, David rode 27th. Dale was last.
"Clear, clear," said Mark. He let his driver know he was gaining on the group in front of him.
Meanwhile, Matt Kenseth's #17 suffered an overheating issue due to trash on the grill of his Carhardt Ford. He went to pit road to have it removed. Water was squirting out of the car. Kevin Harvick also had trash on his grill.
"More loose when I come to the gas," Mikey reported.
"10-4," Paul replied.
"Clear by one on that 34," Mark said. "Still outside, still out there. Clear behind him if you need it. Clear, clear."
Mikey was up to 37th on lap 13.
"34 looking inside, inside. By himself. Clear, clear. Got one in the wall. Caution isn't out yet. Caution's out." Mark warned him the car was in Turns 3 and 4.
The first caution was on lap 15. Denny Hamlin had slammed into the outside wall. His spotter and the commentators said it was a right front flat, but Hamlin later said he had hit a wet spot in the track. He said the track was too wet for the race today. He went right to the garage. Harvick had been on pit road for the trash on his nose.
"I am major loose," Mikey stated.
"10-4." Paul called for a wedge and air pressure adjustment and to drop the track bar.
Mikey made a request for a tearoff. When asked, he said his temperatures were 190 and 230. "Everything looks all right, just no issues with that."
"All right. Thank you."
"99 and the 8 both should be here."
Leaders pit under caution, and Gordon was first back on track. Because Harvick had pit before the yellow flag waved, he was now in the lead. He led quite a bit under caution until NASCAR decided that he had pit during yellow and sent him to the rear.
"Let me just tell you, now that it pitted, an adjustment I don't like is right front air. I can't deal with that," Mikey told his crew chief. "So if you did it, just be aware of it."
Paul said he hadn't done that and repeated the adjustments he'd made.
Mark let Mikey know that Matt Kenseth was coming to his outside to collect the free pass.
Harvick's #29 was still drifting back to the rear when the green flag returned on lap 18. Jeff Gordon led. David was 24th, Mikey was 34th, and Dale was 39th.
Mark guided Mikey through a multi-car accident.
The second caution was on lap 20. Casey Mears' #5 had driven through a wet spot - "weepers" - on the track. He hit the wall in Turn 2 and ricochetted across Dale Earnhardt Jr's path. The two collided. Sam Hornish Jr ran into the sideways #5, flipping it onto its side. The nose of the #77 caught on fire, beside Mears' window. Reed Sorenson was also collected. All drivers involved were reported to be okay.
NASCAR red flagged the race on lap 21 at 6:50pm. David was 18th, Mikey was 30th, and Dale was 35th. Gordon was still in the lead.
"That didn't help it at all. The way this stupid thing drive... well, I shouldn't say that didn't help it at all. It's darty. I think we've got some issues with it being darty." Mikey said the back end was better. "When the motor quits pulling it straight, and I let off, I'm just all over the place. I don't have enough tow-in or bump-steer or something in the front. Man, it's a mess so far, but it's better."
Paul asked if it were darty on the new tires.
"Well, I'm not sure I understand your question, so I don't know how to answer it. But the truth..." his radio faded out. "Now I just seem to be a little better off." He said the back end was better but the front end felt the same.
"We can definitely tow the thing out a little bit here," Paul suggested. He said that's about all they could do during the race.
"Yeah, we'll see what this adjustment did." Mikey said he didn't feel it hurt anything.
"What happened to the 11, Mark?" Mikey asked under the red.
Mark said Hamlin had gotten into the wall in Turn 3. "I don't know if he broke something or not."
Under the red flag, Paul suggested pitting and bringing the trackbar down. He recognised they'd lose track position.
"I don't know," Mikey replied. "I'll do whatever, but... It doesn't matter to me. Whatever y'all think. Considering... I'd be guessing, so y'all just tell me what to do."
Paul told Mark to keep an eye on the other cars. He said, if they pit, they'd go down two turns on the trackbar. "Mark, you copied that, right?"
"Yeah, 10-4," Mark replied.
Meanwhile, Earnhardt Jr was interviewed in the garage. He said the track was dirty and they shouldn't be racing on it today. Reed Sorenson also said the track was too wet.
Paul told Mikey that he didn't know what he could see but that there were reports of water on the track. Both David and Dale had said something about it.
"Yep," Mikey replied. After a long pause, he added. "I've just been going around it. I can barely keep from spinning out on dry pavement, so I'm just trying to avoid it."
At 7:13pm, Mark told Mikey the safety workers had cleaned up the mess and were not working on drying the track further.
"Well, I'm telling you there's plenty of room to go around them, so I wouldn't waste too much time," Mikey replied.
"I'm wondering if we've got that left front tire down too low, but it didn't get that much better when it come up."
Paul called for a pound out of the right rear and told the team to drop the trackbar down more.
"We might want to put a couple pounds in that left front to see if that fixes it. Did it get to target when we pitted?" Mikey asked.
Paul said it didn't.
"I'd rather screw up now than screw up later," Mikey said. He told his crew chief he wanted to see what the adjustment does.
Paul called for two rounds down on the trackbar and four tires.
"Okay, Mike, go ahead and start it up," Mark told his driver at 7:20pm.
"They're going to bring them to pit road, and they're going to park them," Paul told the team. "No tires."
Mark told Mikey three people were standing on the track looking at the water seepage and told him to run high around them, then low around the jet dryers.
"Shelly, you going out there to help him out?" somebody asked.
Paul told two people could go out and check out the splitter. "No covers, no covers."
Meanwhile, track workers planned to cut grooves in the track to drain the water out of the puddles in the track. During the red flag, the crew were looking for their car cover bag. They said the #78 team had the car cover itself. Someone said it was a black bag with "55 car generator" written on it.
"Got a bag that says COT," somebody said.
"Is it a black bag?"
The first person said it was probably it and he'd meet the other halfway to get it.
Paul said they were close to going back racing at 7:47pm. Mark told Mikey to refire the engine nine laps later.
"How long are we going to sit here? I'm going to get hot?" Mikey complained two minutes later.
"They got a couple superstars in the front. They aren't ready yet," Mark replied.
Mikey asked about Turns 3 and 4. Mark said the report was that those turns were dry but told Mikey to check it out like he did before.
When Mark noted that pit road would be open the next time around the track, Paul told Mikey to come in for four tires and for a trackbar adjustment.
Although half the drivers did not pit, Mikey did. Kyle Busch spent a long time on pit road with the hood up, because his #18 was running hot. JJ Yeley and Dale also spent a long time on pit road with overheating issues.
"All the way out, all the way out. All clear," Paul guided.
Mikey requested that Mark tell him exactly where cars to the inside of him were running, because he's so dead loose and he doesn't want to run into that person. Mark said he would.
Racing resumed at 8:05pm on lap 25. Jeff Gordon led. David was 17th, Mikey was 26th, and Dale was 37th.
"Clear all around, clear all around," Mark noted. One lap into the run, Mikey was 24th. "Clear, clear all around."
The #55 was 25th one lap later.
"Still outside, dead-even. Still outside. Got the 15 behind you, working with you. Got one outside, another one. Still out there. Three-wide. Three-wide. Two-wide, 70's still outside. Quarter panel. Lined up behind him on the outside. Inside, inside. You're in the middle. You're clear on the bottom. Still outside, still outside, still out there, still even. Clear, clear. Clear all around.
"Still outside. Quarter panel. Still outside. Still out there," Mark continued. "Clear, clear. Looking inside, inside. Three-wide, you're on the outside. Still inside. One more inside. Clear all around, clear all around."
Kyle Busch had passed along the inside. Mikey was 27th on lap 30.
"Outside, outside. Inside. Clear high, clear high. Clear all around."
"It's better. I'm just very loose," Mikey reported.
"10-4, 10-4," Paul replied.
"Looking inside. Clear, clear all around," Mark guided. "Still clear all around. Got the 43 two-back running the same as you. Still clear by two on the 43."
By lap 32, David was up to 15th. Mikey was 27th, and Dale was 36th.
"41.80," Paul read off lap times.
Jimmie Johnson led lap 34. Teammate Gordon had let him pass to have him help get debris off the nose of the #24.
"41.90," Paul continued.
"Inside, inside. You're clear by fifteen back to the next car," Mark noted. Mikey was now 28th, and Jeff Gordon was back in the lead.
"Still clear by six on the 15 car. Caution's out, caution's out. Moisture," Mark said.
Lap 39 saw the third caution for a light sprinkle in Turn 4 at 8:15pm. Sorenson got the free pass; he was ten laps down.
"I can't be any tighter off, but I need to be tighter in," Mikey stated.
"Maybe sneak a pound out of that left front, although that did help it in."
"Okay. What if we take a pound out of that left rear?"
"Nah, I don't want to do that. That's the only thing that helped me get in." "Maybe put a pound back into the right rear."
Paul said they'd do that and put in a turn of wedge too. "Let's go one up on the right rear, one up on the right rear."
Leaders made stops when pit road open. Mikey came in, and Paul reminded the crew to clean the grill well. Cars scrambled off pit road, and Johnson was the first driver back on track. John Andretti had stayed on track; his #49 was in the lead. Dale also stayed on track and was now 2nd.
"How'd the build-ups look?" Mikey asked well after the stop.
"Two to the right front. Looks like one to the right front," Paul replied. "There was wear in both rear tires."
"There were wear in both rear tires."
"Well, I can believe that!" After a pause, the driver added, "We don't have something right. I mean, I can't run at all off the bottom. It's just way way sideways from the time I go into the turn, and it's just bad. I'm not driving it. I'm just riding in it. So whatever we think we know, we need to rethink it."
"10-4," Paul replied.
On lap 43, Andretti pit. Dale was now in the lead.
When Mark talked about the efforts to dry the track, Mikey said, "Let's go! Tell them it's as good as it's going to get. Let's go racing."
"Those jets are still down there in the same location. It'll be one to go when you get back," Mark said. "One to go."
Dale pit, giving the lead to Johnson.
"Okay, pace car is off. Ready? Ready? Green green green," said Mark.
Racing resumed on lap 47. David was 16th, Mikey was 27th, and Dale was 38th. Gordon took the lead one lap into the run.
"Clear all around. Clear by one, back to the 21," Mark continued. "Clear all around, clear all around."
David went four-wide on lap 49 and was dropped back to 19th.
"Still clear, still clear," Mark noted. "Looking inside, quarter panel. Still there, still there. Another one coming with him. 21 inside. Clear the 21. 21 back inside. Still inside. Still there, still there. Clear behind him by three. Clear all around, clear all around."
Mikey was 29th on lap 50. David was 18th, and Dale was 37th.
"Clear by five, back to the 01."
"41.45 - best lap of this run," Paul said.
"Pulling away from behind. Clear by ten, back to the 78."
On lap 55, Jeremy Mayfield went to pit road with a flat left front tire.
"We have not touched it entering. I'm backing into the corner," Mikey reported.
Lap 56 saw the fourth caution.
"Got the debris back in Turn 2," Mark explained.
"I'm just killer loose, real loose," Mikey complained.
"10-4," Paul replied.
"We gotta work on it. We gotta put wedge in it or do something to it."
"Get us a rubber in the left rear dam," Paul said.
"Let's get busy, y'all. I'm going to wreck!"
"Pit road will be open this time. Checking up on you, checking up," Mark warned.
Drivers pit under caution. Paul guided his driver to the box and reminded him to drive right to his sign. Jeff Burton was the first driver back on track. Because Mayfield caused the caution and was the only driver one lap down, no lucky dog pass was issued.
"I don't know what's going on with my motor, but when I beat them off the corner, Mark, I don't feel like I beat them down the straightaway," Mikey complained.
Mark said he saw that but thought it was because Mikey was loose.
"I seem to get in it before them, but I can't run with them. It might just be my chassis. We'll keep working on it."
Racing resumed on lap 59. Burton led, but Gordon was immediately on his outside and passed on the backstretch.
"Clear by three, clear by three," Mark noted. Mikey was 33rd. David was 22nd, and Dale was 30th. "Clear high, clear all around. Clear by three."
"Still outside, still out there. Clear high if you need it. Clear, clear all around. Looking inside, inside. Still inside, still there. Clear low behind him. Three-wide, you're on the outside. Two-wide, still inside. Clear, clear. Inside, clear. Clear all around."
Mikey was 32nd on lap 60.
"Clear by five, pulling away." Mark guided Mikey past the spinning #78 of Joe Nemechek.
The fifth caution was on lap 62.
"Man, this thing is just evil. I don't know what we've done... I don't know. We just really, reallly got a car here that you can't drive. There's just no way to get it in the corner. If I get off where I need to, but I don't have no time. I'm just stuck. It's like it's got too much acriman. Like, you can't even touch the wheel. Like too much caster wheel or something."
"We only have a few cars behind us," Paul pointed out. He said they could pit for more tires.
"I don't know why you'd want to put tires on it. We only got a couple laps. They're probably just coming up in temperature," Mikey said. He told them to "be gentle" and that they only needed about an eighth. "We're going to have to work it out in a hurry, because it's going to be a quick caution."
"Open this time, open this time," Mark noted. "One to go when we get here. One to go when we get here."
"Do you want to mess with it or not?" Mikey asked.
The crew chief said no.
"I'm going to stay out."
"Yes, stay out, stay out," Paul replied.
Few cars went to pit road, mainly ones running toward the rear of the field.
"Got the 72 back on the outside of you, making up his lap," it sounded like Mark said, although no #72 car was in the field.
Lap 65 saw the restart, and Gordon led. David was 23rd, Dale was 27th, and Mikey was 29th.
"Clear all around, clear all around," Mark said. "Clear by four. Clear high, clear high. Still outside, still there. Got another one looking outside. 44 still there. Clear high, clear high."
Dale was 28th, and Mikey was 29th on lap 67.
"Looking a little bit outside, outside, outside. Clear behind him," Mark spotted. "Looking outside - 88 car. 44 still out there, 88 lined up behind him. 26 looking outside. Clear right there. Clear behind the 88 if you need it. 26 inside, inside. Clear by six behind him. Got a spin up high, spin up high. Stay low. Caution's out, caution's out."
The yellow flag waved for the sixth time on lap 69. Elliott Sadler hit the wall.
"I can't drive it," Mikey said. "I just... if y'all can't fucking fix it, then just tell me. It will not go in the turns without spinning out."
"10-4, man, 10-4," Paul replied. "We're still working on it, man. There's still some things we're going to try here." He called for a trackbar and tow adjustment.
Drivers pit under caution. Mikey spent time on pit road while the team made adjustments. As the pace car neared, Paul told the crew to skip the trackbar and go two turns down on the left rear.
Four drivers stayed on track. Jamie McMurray led the restart on lap 73 restart. David was 13th, Dale was 30th, and Mikey was 35th.
"Clear all around," Mark observed. "Outside - 19 car. Outside. Clear behind him. Clear by four, clear all around."
Greg Biffle took the lead on lap 74. David was up to 12th. Dale was 29th, and Mikey was 34th.
"41.20," Paul read off the lap time.
On lap 77, David was up to 11th.
"Looking inside, inside," Mark warned. "Still down there. Still down there. Clear, Clear."
Mikey had passed Dario Franchiti's #40 for position. He was 33rd on lap 78. "Good corner there. Clear by three."
One lap later, David was 9th. Mark cleared Mikey by four car lengths.
"41.60. Going to catch those guys in front of you," Paul encouraged.
Lap 80 saw David's #00 move into 8th.
"41.80 - doing better than the ones in front of you."
"22's kind of coming to the back here," Mark warned. "Still out there. Clear, clear. Caution's out, caution's out. Got moisture somewhere."
The seventh caution was on lap 81 for more rain at 9:00pm.
"We ain't touched it," Mikey reported. "We ain't frickin'... not even... not even remotely touched it. I back into the corners, and I go. I'm not telling you any more or any less. It's exactly the same."
Mark said pit road would open the next time around the track.
"Get that trackbar up."
Paul told the crew to drop the trackbar an inch.
"It's fine. It's raining on the back straightaway, so it'll be all right," Mikey replied.
Paul called for four tires and a left side trackbar adjustment. He also wanted a shock closed off.
"I don't like that. It won't breathe. That mother...fricker will just slide right off the earth."
Paul changed the call and said no shock adjustment.
"Let us know, Mark," Mikey requested, regarding the position of the pace car on the track.
Just after the pace car got off Turn 2, Paul told Mikey to get back on the track.
"It'll be one to go this time. One to go," Mark said. "Tail of the field here right off of four."
NASCAR waved off the restart when the rain became heavier.
"Calling it off here, Mike," Mark said. "Calling it off."
Franchitti pit under caution. He had been leading, and Johnson picked up the lead.
"All right, it'll be one to go this time. One to go."
"Is there any reason to think a rubber in the right front would give me a better feel?" Mikey asked.
Paul said they'd been talking about closing up the bump stop.
"Or we could... it's like it doesn't even have a sway bar hooked up. We might look at lowering the bar or something."
"Okay, called it off again. Called it off again," Mark relayed the information.
"Just feels like, when I go into the turns, it immediately... it turns sideways, major," Mikey reported. "Like it never loads up. As soon as I let off, it does it."
"10-4," Paul replied.
"It feels just like the first lap I made of practice. We didn't even touch it, not even nothing. First lap of practice, I just about spun out. Then it got good. Now it's the same way."
Paul told the crew to get the car cover ready, because it looked like they were about to red flag the race. Teams began covering cars at 9:12pm, and the rain continued. Cars parked on pit road, and the red flag was out on lap 87. NASCAR told teams to have four crew members handy at this time.
"It's pretty big right now. Holy cow!" a crewmember said on the radio.
"Yeah, I know," another replied.
Meanwhile, Mikey sat in his car.
At 9:26pm, Paul said, "Shelly, I think I heard they're going to take them back to the garage."
A crewmember said they'd check with an official.
"I thought that's what I heard them say. They were a little quiet though."
"Okay, Paul. I just checked with an official. They said no, not of yet."
Mikey's team talked about how the race was called at 1:58am ET and that the garage would open at 8am pacific time tomorrow morning.
The race was rescheduled until tomorrow at 1:00pm ET on FOX. David, Dale, and Mikey will restart 12th, 31st, and 33rd respectively.