Cale Gale & the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet at
Cale Gale and the No. 33 Rheem team tied their season-best finish, fifth, in the American Ethanol 200 presented by Hy-Vee this Saturday at Iowa Speedway. With a quick truck all weekend, Gale practiced sixth in both practice sessions and qualified sixth for the 200-lap event. The Rheem team focused on the setup of their Chevrolet, knowing that changing track conditions would likely leave many competitors chasing the track throughout the 175-mile event. With an excellent pit strategy, crew chief Jerry Baxter and the Rheem team put Gale in a position to be running inside the top five during the final laps and helped enable to Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to tie his career-best NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) finish.
With only two sets of sticker tires and 200 scheduled laps at a track where lap times fall off as tires wear down, the Rheem team utilized pit strategy to help dictate the pace of their race. At the start of the event, the Rheem Chevrolet was just a little tight through the center on both ends of the race track, but as the sun set the track started to come around to the 33 team. With no adjustments needed, the Rheem team was able to focus on tire-wear and fuel to determine when they needed to pit. Gale stayed on track during the opening caution period on lap 24, but opted to pit for fuel-only as they neared half-way in their fuel run during the lap 36 caution period.
As several competitors took tires during the lap 36 and 55 caution periods, Gale fell back to the 10th position while running on old tires. The Rheem team came down pit road on lap 71 for his first set of sticker tires, some 20 to 40 laps after most of their competition. The move pushed Gale's No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet back to 20th in the running order, but gave him the grip that he needed to battle his way back through the field with fresh tires.
With the field spread out on their pit sequence, Gale was able to outlast many of his competitors as they began pitting under green. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender raced as high as the third position before coming down pit road on lap 164. The intensity heated up when the caution flag was displayed as Gale pulled on to pit road. Still in front of the leader when the caution came out, Gale was able to continue driving through to pits to circle around to the lead lap. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender returned to pit road the next lap for four fresh tires and fuel and restarted the American Ethanol 200 in the third position.
With three restarts in the final twenty laps, Gale battled the competition for his position inside the top five. Restarting the race on lap 174, Gale dove to the inside in turn two to take over the second position and chase down the leader. Just five laps later the caution flag was displayed again and Gale restarted the race on the bottom in the second position. Gale drove the Rheem Chevrolet hard into turn one and lost some ground while running in the middle of a three-wide pack in turn two. In a close battle for the top six positions, Gale was able to hold on to cross the finish line in the fifth position.
"I had a lot of fun tonight," commented Gale following the race. "The Rheem team built me a really good Silverado and had great pit stops all night. Jerry [Baxter, crew chief] and all the guys did a great job improving on our Rheem Chevrolet all weekend. I can't thank everyone enough--my team for their hard work, Eddie Sharp for giving me this opportunity, or Rheem for their support. I had a lot of fun tonight. I can't wait to get to Kentucky next week."