NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie Contender Dakoda Armstrong made his first career start at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday afternoon, hoping to improve on his premature exit at Daytona International Speedway in February. With a goal of a strong finish in mind and patience at the paper clip-shaped short track, Armstrong drove his No. 98 EverFi Toyota Tundra through several close calls to a 21st place finish.
Crew chief Dan Stillman called for several changes to the EverFi machine before qualifying on Saturday morning following feedback from both practice sessions, hoping to give Armstrong a truck that would keep a good drive off and cut better through the turns. The changes made their Tundra too loose for Armstrong, and though he nearly lost control coming out of turn two on the final qualifying lap, he was able to maintain control and grab the 36th starting spot.
After a clean start to the Kroger 250, Armstrong sustained minor nose damage to the No. 98 after bumping into the truck in front of him slowing for an accident on the front stretch on lap 22. Under the caution period that ensued, the Indiana native pulled his truck down pit road to the attention of his pit crew for fuel and chassis adjustments to help the loose handling conditions he was experiencing. Following the stop, he continued to battle with this condition until the third caution of the day on lap 93, when he was involved in a pile-up in turn four. This time, Armstrong wasn't so lucky and suffered significant front end damage, crinkling the hood up and obstructing his view.
"Hit it, smash it, sit on it-whatever you have to do so he can see out the windshield, do it," Stillman called to the crew over the radio as his driver stopped in his pit box to fix the damage.
Several more pit stops were needed shortly after to secure the hood, but Armstrong continued on despite the damage. During the final long run between lap 164 and 228, Stillman told the young wheelman that he was running very good, consistent lap times. Armstrong's feedback reflected the crew chief's observation.
"Those last changes you made helped the truck stick better and I can carry a lot more speed out of the corners. This is definitely the best we've been all day," Armstrong commented.
Steering clear of the final two incidents of the day, Armstrong brought the No. 98 EverFi Tundra home in the 21st position.
"That last run we were really hooked up. Dan Stillman and the crew did a great job working hard all day to get it right. We just need to get a better qualifying effort next time and remember this setup; it's too hard to make up track position here at Martinsville. But I'm proud of how we stuck with it all day."
The 21st place finish moves Armstrong up to the 30th spot in the point standings and was the best in the ThorSport Racing stable after Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter both suffered mechanical issues. Armstrong and the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors head to Rockingham Speedway for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 presented by Cheerwine on Sunday, April 15th.