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Michigan Post-Race Report

DHL 400
JUNE 20, 2004

NO. 77 TIME/SPEED – 37.921 Seconds/189.868MPH
RACE WINNER – Ryan Newman (Started 4th)
NO. 77 OWNER POINTS – 30th


Brooklyn, Mich. (June 20, 2004) – All-in-all, it was a great weekend for the No. 77 Penske-Jasper Racing team at Michigan International Speedway. While carrying the Jasper Engines and Transmissions colors for the DHL 400, driver Brendan Gaughan was able to pilot his Dodge into the lead, and though the results, a 16th-place finish, were not indicative of the effort put forth throughout the day, the team was encouraged.

The event began with adversity. After taking the green flag and heading around turn two, Gaughan’s yellow Dodge was clipped in the left rear by another competitor, causing Gaughan to slide up the track and brush the wall, ultimately injuring the race car's right side. The damage was not major, but it required attention in the opening laps.

On lap three, Gaughan brought his machine down pit road to receive four tires and fuel as well as minor repairs, which included having the sheet metal pulled off the right rear tire. The repairs were completed and Gaughan returned to the track, but the damage would challenge the team during pit stops throughout the day.

The field received the green flag again on lap 4, and on lap 6 Gaughan said the car was too loose in turns three and four. Crew chief Shane Wilson encouraged Gaughan to work with the car for several more laps to see what changes might arise under a green flag run and when Wilson asked for an update on lap 27, the car’s handling had tightened up off of the turns where it was previously loose. Gaughan also felt a twitch and stated that it felt as though the car had no forward bite.

On lap 33, NASCAR called a caution for debris and Wilson took advantage of the situation to call Gaughan to the pits. The Jasper Engines and Transmissions crew provided four fresh tires and fuel along with a wedge adjustment. Gaughan restarted the event from the 27th position on lap 39.

On lap 66, Gaughan provided more feedback to the team concerning the car’s handling; it was too loose in the early runs, tight towards the end but always maintained the twitch he mentioned earlier that prevented the car from getting any forward grip. After settling into his racing groove, Gaughan again updated the team on lap 79 when he told Wilson the car felt the best it had all day.

Coming towards the end of their fuel run, Wilson instructed Bill Wilburn, Gaughan’s spotter, to bring the driver down pit road no later than lap 83. On lap 83, Gaughan pulled into his pit stall and received four fresh Goodyear tires and two cans of Sunoco fuel. Since Gaughan was comfortable with his Jasper machine, there was no need for adjustments. Gaughan returned to the track in the 27th position and when the caution flag was displayed on lap 89, he was posted in 25th.

In a concentrated effort to gain track position, Wilson instructed Gaughan to stay out on the track. Taking the gamble, Wilson counted on the car to continue handling better on the long runs. He also knew almost the entire field would come down pit road for tires.

Wilson’s gamble paid off as the field took the green on lap 94 with the Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge posted in the third position. By lap 100, Gaughan had climbed to the second position and on lap 104, he took the lead for the first time under green in the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season. While he had led one lap under caution earlier this year, Gaughan and the team knew the laps under green flag conditions were more important and spoke volumes for the talent behind the wheel.

Gaughan maintained his lead until lap 117 when he pitted for service under caution. The right side damage from the first lap once again cost the team precious seconds while changing the right rear tire.

Gaughan returned to the track in the second position. Once again with the new tires, Gaughan said the car was loose all around. He slowly slipped back in the field and when the field received a caution on lap 150 the team took advantage of it to make a pit stop. In addition to four tires and fuel, Gaughan's Dodge received a chassis adjustment to tighten the car's handling.

When the field took the green flag, Gaughan was posted in the eighth position, but due to what the team speculated as low pressure in the tires, a puff of smoke filled the car and the No. 77 shot up the track and into the wall, causing more damage to the right side and bringing out the caution flag again. Gaughan informed the team that the car felt as though something were broken but when he came back down pit road on lap 159 for service and repairs, everything checked out.

Gaughan rejoined the field and took the green flag from the 26th position on lap 164. In another effort to gain track position, Wilson again had Gaughan stay on the track under caution on lap 174. When the green flag fell on lap 178, Gaughan was posted in the eighth position. He slowly slipped back in the field, and when the checkered flag waved, he was posted in the 16th position.

Penske-Jasper power won the event with Ryan Newman at the helm while the third Penske car driven by Rusty Wallace crossed the line in the 24th position after experiencing mechanical problems. All three Dodges powered by Penske-Jasper Engines finished on the lead lap

from Jasper

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