Iryan On The Record:/I What A Season
November 28, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Let's recap: We started out our "ABC" schedule with the ARCA RE/MAX event in Daytona. It was our first race on the famed superspeedway and we made the most of it by adding another win to our record.
Rockingham was the site of our very first Busch race. We sat on the outside pole and raced hard for a top-ten. Our first Winston Cup start of the year and second ever was in Las Vegas. We unfortunately struggled most of the weekend but we got a lot of good experience.
We continued our success in the Busch Series in Atlanta where we captured our first pole. We were pretty competitive until someone got into us and cut our day short.
In Darlington we sat on the pole for the second week in a row. We led the race early on before the car got tight but we still pulled out a 17th-place finish.
Short track racing in Bristol saw another top-five starting spot and our best finish to that point, a sixth-place finish. In Texas I tried too hard in qualifying and scraped the outside retaining wall. Even though we needed to pull out the back-up car, we wound up running strong for a 14th place finish.
We had most of April off before returning to the Busch Series in May at Richmond. We qualified fourth and raced to another 14th-place finish.
Next we headed north for the Busch Series event New Hampshire International Speedway. We continued our streak of top-five qualifying spots by claiming the fifth spot on the starting grid. During the race we cut down a tire and still finished 15th.
We spent the next two weeks at Lowe's Motor Speedway and our first event was The Winston, our only non-points paying race of the year. We claimed the outside pole for the The Winston Open and led 22 laps of the event. It looked like we would win and advance to The Winston until the engine soured.
That was our only engine failure all year. Next was the Coca-Cola 600 Winston Cup race. We scored our first Winston Cup career pole and led 10 laps. I got a little anxious though and crashed on the 11th lap which ended our night. We headed to Kansas City for the ARCA race. We claimed another pole and ran well in the race but the tires were not handling the surface well and we blew right front tire which ended our day.
In Michigan we decided to run the Winston Cup race. We started 12thand finished a strong fifth.
The Chicagoland Speedway was the second of the brand-new race tracks this season. We scored the pole and led 84 laps before we got caught in an accident, finishing 26th.
Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400 was definitely a highlight this year. We were fastest in practice and I overdid it qualifying. I hit the wall and still qualified fifth. In the race I got knocked around in the corner and hit the wall which messed up handling. We finished 31st.
We went back to Busch racing at Michigan and it felt really good after June to go back there. We qualified second and had a great car that took us to our first win. We brought a different car to Bristol the second time. We qualified 15th and raced strong to an eighth place finish. In Darlington we scored the pole again, sweeping both poles at that track. We led early in the race until it started to rain but as we came down pit road our wheel fell off. We recovered though for a hard fought fourth-place finish.
We improved in our second visit to Richmond as well. We started from the outside pole and stayed in top-10 all day to finish seventh. At Dover we earned our fifth pole of season. In the race we led the most laps until a late race altercation took us out and we limped to a 21st-place finish.
We returned to Kansas for the Winston Cup race hoping we could learn from our ARCA experience. We brought a different car then from our June visit and late in practice the car turned on me. I got into the outside wall brought out back-up which was the car we used in the ARCA race. With no laps, we qualified 17th and went on to run strong for a second-place finish, our highest to date.
At Charlotte, we led in practice but came up a little short in qualifying for the pole but did get fourth. The car was a handful but we were working on it until Jimmie Johnson got turned and we made contact. But we still finished 19th.
Our seventh and final Winston Cup race was in Phoenix. We struggled a little and qualified 25th. During the race we weren't running bad but got caught up in someone else's accident and finished 40th.
We were really excited about Rockingham because we had done so well there before. We grabbed our sixth pole but fought a tight condition during the race. The lack of cautions hurt us but we'll take seventh.
Then it was on to Homestead for our final race of the 2001 season. It looked like we'd get another pole but Jeff Green wanted it bad so second wasn't bad. Another lack of cautions was rough on everyone but once again we finished in the top-10
I think you can definitely say that of the places we raced at twice we definitely improved the second time around and in every points paying race we didn't have a single engine problem. The most important thing about this year, though, was we learned a lot and take a lot of experience into next season.
Make sure you look for the ALLTEL Ford in Winston Cup next season as we make our bid for 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. Thanks for supporting me this season and happy holidays to everyone!