Cale Gale and the No. 33 Rheem team finished 20th on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway after gambling on fuel strategy. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender was running fourth with three laps to go when Gale came across the radio informing the crew that he was out of fuel and needed to come down pit road. Once re-fired, Gale rejoined the competition and crossed the finish line in the 20th position.
Due to a new surface on the two-mile oval, teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) were allowed extra practice time throughout the weekend to evaluate their trucks and make necessary changes. With competitors running wide open around the entire facility, the racing began to resemble what is typically seen only on superspeedways as many drivers teamed up in packs to gain speed around the track.
During the opening practice session as Gale ran in a five-truck pack, another competitor got loose causing the group to check up and take evasive action to avoid contact. With no other options, Gale opted to go high on the track. When he got out of the groove, the Rheem Chevrolet lost grip and got into the wall in turn two. With damage to the right front, Gale and the Rheem team were forced to unload their backup truck--chassis 043--which Gale competed in for the first time on Saturday afternoon.
Gale rolled off 17th for the VFW 200 at Michigan International Speedway, and quickly fell into line with a pack of trucks. Running inside the top 20, Gale called into his team early in the event to report a loose Chevrolet. Crew chief Jerry Baxter made the decision to bring the Rheem Chevrolet down pit road during the opening caution on lap 14 for four tires and an air-pressure adjustment, and again during the lap 39 caution period for a wedge adjustment.
Happy with the handling of his truck, Gale's race quickly became all about fuel mileage. Typically maintaining a position around the top 15, but racing as high as 10th, Gale came down pit road on lap 58 for four tires and fuel. Knowing that they were a few laps shy of their pit window, the Rheem team topped off the fuel cell before taking the green flag and hoped that caution flags would help them save enough fuel to make it the distance. As the leaders made green-flag pit stops, Gale raced through the field and climbed up the leader board. Racing in the fourth position on lap 197, Gale called into the crew to tell them that the Rheem Chevrolet lost fuel pressure and was out of gas. The Mobile, Ala. native made it around to pit road for fuel, but had a little trouble regaining fuel pressure to fire the engine; Gale returned to the track to finish in the 20th position.
"I'm so proud of everyone on the Rheem team for all their hard work this weekend," commented Gale. "We took a gamble on fuel mileage and unfortunately it didn't work out. The guys did a great job during practice getting our backup unloaded and through tech, and again today with pit stops and making adjustments during the race. While we didn't have the finish that we hoped for, we're all really excited to get to Bristol this week. I grew up racing on short tracks like Bristol and sat on the pole in the Nationwide Series there a few years ago; the Rheem team has built me great trucks all season and I can't wait to see what we're able to do next week."