Coming off a discouraging finish at Road America, Mike Bliss and his No. 19 TriStar Motorsports crew worked feverishly at the Bluegrass State’s fastest 1.5-mile oval. At the start of the race Bliss knew he had his work cut out for him as he rolled off 24th for the 12thAnnual Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
Within the first 40 laps, Bliss gained a few spots and merged into the top-20 and stayed there for 12 laps. A caution fell at lap 51 just as Bliss’ car started to feel a “wrecking loose.”
“The car is tighter when I’m on the gas, but I’m really loose on entry,” said Bliss. This was the beginning to a series of adjustments throughout the action packed event. Bliss and Crew Chief Paul Clapprood made track bar, air pressure, shock and wedge adjustments all in an attempt to find a balance with Bliss’ Toyota.
By lap 87 Bliss was racing in the 20th position and radioed to Clapprood, “I can’t turn the wheel in the center of three and four; it seems like it’s going to snap loose on me.”
At lap 110 there were only nine cars on the lead lap as Bliss fluctuated between 19th and 23rd. At this point the team met their limitations as to what they could do to accommodate the ill handling No. 19. Simultaneously, Bliss’ spotter Toby Whealdon radioed, “I’m feeling some rain up here on the roof.”
With rain sparsely falling over Kentucky Speedway; the field ran under caution for seven laps. Bliss maintained the 19th position as NASCAR made the official decision to end the Feed the Children 300 at lap 169 due to excessive precipitation.
“The fact that the race was shortened by rain didn’t hurt our finishing efforts. My crew worked really hard and we tried everything we could think of to balance the car out,” said Bliss. “I can’t say enough about my guys; they never gave up.”
Bliss’ 19th place finish at Kentucky is the 12th top-20 finish of the season. Falling one spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver points standing to 13th, Bliss and his crew set their sights on NASCAR’s iconic track, Daytona International Speedway.