Saturday wasn’t supposed to be this hard for Brandon Whitt and the DW Boogity Grill Tundra team. On Friday, Whitt was consistently in the top five during practice and backed it up with a great qualifying lap of 19.822 seconds, 95.530 miles per hour; good enough for a fourth-place starting position.
However, Whitt and company experienced engine problems during their qualifying run and were forced to make an engine change. NASCAR mandates such a change result in that team starting from the rear of the field. So, instead of rolling off on the outside of the second row for the start of Saturday’s race, Whitt started at the rear of the field in 36th.
Whitt wouldn’t stay there for long. Typical of Martinsville, the caution flag flew early and often; nine total, plus one red flag. Each caution period Whitt had advanced four or five positions. But, the team needed some help on pit road and they got that in crew chief Jamie Jones, who had a plan, stuck to it, and it worked to perfection.
Whitt pitted only once, on lap 55 for four fresh tires and a full tank of gas. He had worked his way from 36th all the way up to 24th, then came out of the pits in the 21st position. The team would not pit again.
A fast truck, some smart driving, mixed in with the pit strategy and Whitt had maneuvered his way inside the top five into third and quickly closing on the leader. The last caution flag fell on lap 182 and the field took the green with 12 laps remaining. Whitt restarted third and held off series’ point leader Ted Musgrave while continuously putting the heat on the second place truck of Todd Kluever.
Time was the only thing preventing Whitt from scoring his second win of the season. Whitt, who turned 23 during the week, brought the #38 DW Boogity Grill Tundra home in third place, his second top five and fourth top ten of the season. Saturday marked the second consecutive top ten for Whitt and the Red Horse Racing crew.
“Martinsville is one of the toughest places to start at the back of the field,” Whitt said. “But we just had a great Tundra today. It made for a really good day. The guys at Red Horse Racing did a really good job in the pits. My spotter kept me out a trouble all day. And, we ended up in the top-three - which is perfect.”
“I believe I had something for the top two at the end. But, it’s one of those deals where we needed a top-five finish and we wanted to bring the truck home in one piece so we could bring it to Phoenix later in the year. I wanted to push the issue, but then again I didn’t. At the end, we just decided to bring it home safely and get a top-five finish.”
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will next return to the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, located in Hampton, Ga. for Friday night’s Atlanta 200.