Engine Woes End Night Early in the Bluegrass State for Chase Pistone
With two runs under his belt in 2014 with NTS Motorsports in the No.9 Chevrolet Silverado in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Chase Pistone looked to make his first ever start on a mile and a half racetrack at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky. All on track activity for the UNOH 225 was rolled into a one-day show, with an early start for teams and drivers. After gaining momentum with a lot of speed and a top ten finish at Gateway Motorsports Park two weeks earlier, Pistone and No.9 crew chief Ryan McKinney looked forward to another strong showing on the banks of the Ohio River. As first practice got underway on Thursday morning, the No.9 crew were dealt a tough hand and had to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Chase Pistone fired up his Chevrolet Silverado to prepare for his first laps on the relatively new and glamorous facility in northern Kentucky. While working his way up to full song on the backstretch, Pistone radioed to his crew "Guys something is wrong, I'm going to have to bring it to you.". As the team rushed to the end of pit road in order to push their truck back to the garage area, McKinney kept his team focused and was thankful the problem was discovered so early, "We'll get it fixed guys, better it happened now than later". Working at a blistering pace, the crew had just over an hour to remove the motor and replace it with a backup before the start of the final practice session.
With no time to spare, McKinney and the rest of the No.9 team tightened the final bolts under the hood and Chase Pistone fired up a new motor and roared back on track. After his first 5 laps on the mile and a half bumpy surface, Pistone was just a bit free and sliding the nose through turns three and four. With multiple rounds of adjustments and after getting some input after first practice from teammates in the No.20 NTS Motorsports Qore-24 camp, McKinney made the most of the limited practice time. After electing not to make a mock qualifying run in order to get the most information about race setup, Pistone posted a lap of 31.480 which was seventeenth on the board and was one of the top teams who did not run qualifying trim.
With partly cloudy skies filling the Kentucky horizon, McKinney, Pistone, and spotter Tim Fedewa looked to exploit the cooler temperatures when the sun was hidden from the track for their real qualifying effort. The blueprint was followed perfectly and proved to be the preferable plan as Pistone laid down a time of 31.30 that held inside the top ten and advanced the No.9 team to the second round to fight to be one of the fastest twelve. With each and every round of Knockout Qualifying proving to be a chess match of strategy and timing, drivers sat at the end of pit road waiting for the last possible moment to get on track. With just under a minute remaining in the final ten minute session, Chase hit the track and made it back to the line in 31.258 seconds for a nineteenth starting spot in the 150 lap event.
With the sun still fading behind the Kentucky mountains, Pistone accepted his award on stage for being the Sunoco Rookie of the Race at Gateway Motorsports Park during driver introductions and then strapped in to go to work. McKinney knew that he and his team had their work cut out for them, but was confident in his driver's ability to make his way to the front. As the green was displayed to start the race Pistone began his march through the field after starting on the inside of row ten.
After only three laps on track, caution was displayed for the first time while Chase had picked his way through to seventeenth and told his crew chief, "It feels really good, the truck is a little loose going into turn three, but I know that it will get better the longer we go." Holding his own and making it into the top fifteen after just fifty laps, the No.9 came to the assistance of his crew under green for four tires, Sunoco racing fuel, and a few minor adjustments to help Pistone get through the turns. After a quick stop, Pistone roared back to the track but unfortunately would have to come in and serve a stop-and-go penalty, after equipment was taken outside of the pit box. When the caution was displayed on lap sixty, Pistone was caught multiple laps down but still had speed in the truck looking for some help to get back on the same circuit as the leaders. Leading the lap he was running and talking with McKinney about the best pit strategy to be able to race the leaders for position, a feeling from earlier in the day returned to the No.9 gas pedal.
After fighting through multiple obstacles throughout the day and persevering to find speed with limited practice time, the engine let go and Pistone was pushed behind the wall. On lap 86 the No.9 was retired from the event and came home 28th. Looking to bounce back from a tough day in Kentucky the No.9 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado team, with Chase Pistone at the wheel, will travel to Iowa Speedway for The American Ethanol 200, after a week off, on July 11th, 2014.
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