Celebrating his 20th birthday by making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) debut, Indiana native Dakoda Armstrong entered the Coca Cola 200 presented by Hy-Vee at Iowa Speedway with determination to run a competitive first race. Driving the No. 98 Ferrellgas/Agrisure Chevy Silverado for ThorSport Racing, he did just that. Increasing his speed and comfort level throughout the weekend's practices and the 175-mile event on Saturday night, Armstrong pulled across the finish line in 21st position.
Taking the green flag from the 25th spot on the starting grid, Armstrong found a comfortable spot to ride out the first segment of the race with help from spotter Jon Bell. Riding through the first two caution periods of the night, the No. 98 team took advantage of the third caution on lap 65 to make their first round of pit stops. Crew chief Lance Hooper called for four tires and some adjustments to remedy a tight race truck for Armstrong.
Caught one lap down prior to the pit stops under yellow, Armstrong would catch a break just seven laps after the restart and receive the lucky dog under the fourth caution of the night. The rookie driver reported his truck was better after the adjustments, but wanted more of the same adjustments during the next stops.
Just past the 100 lap mark, Armstrong found himself tangled with two other trucks, resulting in left front damage. The team pulled their driver down pit road to change four tires and make adjustments, then one more time on the next lap to smooth out some sheet metal and add bare bond to help with aerodynamics. The field soon went under red flag conditions to mend a wall damaged during the accident that brought out the caution, giving the driver a chance to get a much needed bottle of water.
"It's a little toasty in here," the 20-year-old driver radioed to his crew.
Crew chief Hooper initially thought the damage was minor, but his driver radioed soon after going back to green flag competition that the truck had turned really loose.
"That damage probably pushed the nose back a little bit and messed up the down force; that's probably what's making it so loose," Hooper commented.
Armstrong would get his next chance for adjustments to the Ferrellgas/Agrisure Silverado on lap 154 for the final caution period of the night. Hooper called for four tires, one pound of air pressure added to the right front and one round down on the track bar. After a good stop by the pit crew, Armstrong re-entered the field in 19th spot with encouragement from his spotter and crew chief to get after it for the last segment.
Unfortunately, the adjustments weren't enough to overcome the damage to the front end of the No. 98, forcing Armstrong to hold on for the remaining 40 laps to come home 21st.
"I was really getting a better feel of things and was getting into a good rhythm right before the contact just past halfway," the rookie ThorSport Racing driver concluded after a long night at Iowa Speedway. "The damage really killed the nose and made it so loose I had to just try and keep it in one piece. I'm proud of all of the guys on this ThorSport team and the gains we made all weekend to our Ferrellgas/Agrisure Chevy Silverado."
Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 98 Ferrellgas/Agrisure Viptera team will take next week off, but returns to NCWTS competition at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis on Friday, July 29.