What started as a somewhat routine and calm NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Michigan International Speedway turned into mass chaos in the final stages on Saturday afternoon. Methodically picking his way through the field, ThorSport Racing driver Dakoda Armstrong was knocking on the door of the top-10 with a fast No. 98 Chevy Silverado when a restart with 10 laps remaining went awry. A spin near the front of the field collected several trucks including Armstrong, handing him a 24th place finish.
Early in the 200-mile contest, Armstrong reported the track conditions had changed from the practice sessions the day before, and his Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings Chevy was getting loose in traffic. He pulled ahead of his 21st starting position after pitting during the first caution on lap nine for fuel only and settled just outside the top-15 through the first segment of the race.
On the second pit stop of the day on lap 48, Armstrong pulled the No. 98 down pit road to the attention of his crew, but couldn't stop in time and over shot the stall. The ThorSport pit crew quickly pushed him back and serviced the truck with four tires and some adjustments before sending their driver back to competition with minor time loss. Armstrong was quiet on the radio for the next 30 laps, but crew chief Dan Stillman called out consistent lap times that were nearly identical to the leaders deep into the run.
The yellow flag flew for the third time on lap 79 and Stillman called for no adjustments when brought Armstrong down pit road for four tires and enough fuel to make it to the finish. Restarting in the 13th position, the Indiana-native was confident in his chances on the restart.
"The truck was just as fast, if not faster than the leaders mid-way through the run," Stillman explained. "We just didn't have the same speed they did at the restart, so we needed long green flag runs to be able to make passes."
Armstrong created a plan with his spotter and Stillman to stay with the high line and move into the top-10. Unfortunately, the strategy wasn't able to play out as the the No. 98 machine was pummeled from behind during a multiple-truck incident on the backstretch just after going green. Unable to regain control after the contact, the Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings Silverado sustained terminal damage to the front end from the inside retaining wall.
"I'm really proud of this whole ThorSport Racing team. We've all worked really hard since our last race and I think our improvements showed today," Armstrong said. "We just kept working on the truck through practice, and after the first pit stop and adjustments it was really, really good on old tires. I was really looking forward to racing hard with the front pack those last ten laps, but I just got hit from behind during the big one on the back stretch and I couldn't save it."
"It's a tough break for us but we have some time before our next race at Chicago to rebound and build on what we had going before the accident."
Chicagoland Speedway will be the next event on the schedule for Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 98 Ferrellgas/Agrisure Viptera/Drive For Savings team on September 16, 2011.