A weather-plagued weekend at Homestead-Miami didn't close out the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season on the high note Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 98 Ferrellgas/EverFi/Drive For Savings team were hoping for. Loose handling conditions throughout the first half of the race sent Armstrong to the back of the pack, losing valuable track position and a chance at running with the leaders in the closing stages of the Ford 200 on Friday evening. Though crew chief Dan Stillman and his crew were able to remedy their Chevy Silverado just past halfway, a pit road penalty on top of their earlier woes left Armstrong with a 25th place finish.
Representing a new partnership with EverFi and a cause close to his family, the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) this weekend, Armstrong was optimistic to give both organizations a solid finish. Precipitation delayed the day's lone practice session and eventually cancelled qualifying. Since the team wasn't able to make a mock qualifying run due to the rain-shortened practice, Armstrong started in the 20th position based on practice speeds.
Handling issues rose within the first three laps of the 200 mile event as Armstrong radioed to his crew that the truck was super loose on entry. Sliding back further into the field, the Indiana-native rode around the back of the pack until the competition caution on lap 20. The crew made the first of many adjustments under the yellow and sent their driver back out into battle. Unfortunately, the Ferrellgas/EverFi/Drive For Savings machine was still loose, and Armstrong reported he felt like he was doing a "four wheel slide" through the turns. Stillman brought his driver back down pit road just 10 laps later under the next caution for some more major adjustments, hoping this round would do the trick.
After returning to track, the team soon found out even the big changes they had just made didn't help. Armstrong held on as best he could for nearly 70 laps of green flag racing, under which the No. 98 crew made a green flag pit stop and was served a pass through penalty for jumping over the wall too soon. By the next caution on lap 98, Armstrong had told his team that the last minor air pressure adjustment all of a sudden brought the truck to life. Unfortunately, he was one lap off the pace and wouldn't have enough time to make up that ground before the final rainstorm ended the event 15 laps short of the scheduled distance.
"It wasn't easy to get a feel for the truck during practice because the tires lost grip so fast, and I had a hard time adjusting between old and new tires with the changes we made. Then when the rain came and washed what rubber we had laid down during practice off the track, it just made conditions worse.
"We were really loose for the first half of the race and that put us too far behind to come back from once we got it right. I'm proud of Dan and my guys for sticking with it though and making all of the adjustments they did to get it feeling better. I just wish we hadn't lost that initial track position at the beginning because we would've really had something to race with there at the end."
"We were really fast for about 10 laps, but we needed to be fast for 134 laps tonight," Stillman said. "But this is why we competed in these races this season, so we're more prepared for the full season next year. We'll work hard in the off season so we're ready for Daytona and just keep making improvements."
Armstrong and the No. 98 ThorSport Racing crew will return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full-time in 2012 to compete for Rookie of the Year honors. During the off season, Armstrong plans on returning to his roots to run select USAC open wheel races across the country, including the Irwindale Speedway Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix over Thanksgiving. For updates leading up to Daytona on Dakoda Armstrong and ThorSport Racing, follow us on Twitter and Facebook (@ThorSportRacing), and visit our website ThorSport.com.