What a way to end the season!
by Larry Foyt, Harrah's Racing
21 November 2003
The Harrahís team finished a season-high 16th this weekend in the NASCAR Winston Cup Seriesí season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Itís hard for me to describe how exciting this was for not only myself, but for my crew and the fans.
The race weekend got off to an early start because Homestead reconfigured their race track by repaving it and adding 20 degrees of variable banking. They did a heck of a job, too. The track was so smooth and there were multiple race grooves, which is uncommon at a repaved track. It was so much fun to race on.
To help us prepare for the new configuration, NASCAR held an open test session there the Wednesday prior to the race. I think it helped us out a lot, because we didnít have many notes to fall back on from the old configuration.
However, prior to qualifying on Friday, it didnít look like we would even make the race. We were on the outside looking in once qualifying started and we knew we would have to pick up a lot in order to make the race. Even more discouraging was that a lot of the teams were losing time from their morning practice speeds.
My crew was pretty nervous, but I told them not to worry because we had it in the bag. They didnít believe me until I crossed the finish line for my first qualifying lap, putting the Harrahís Dodge in the 12th starting position Ė our best this year. You would have thought we had just won the race by the way they reacted.
It was really a special moment for us. A lot of other crew members and drivers came by our garage stall to congratulate us. We celebrated for a little while, but we knew we still had our work cut out for us to prepare for the race.
The beginning of the race didnít go so well for us. An accident on lap four of the 267-lap event left debris all over track, and most of the field ran over something and had to pit. I didnít think that I had, so I stayed out. Unfortunately, while everyone was pitting, my right-rear tire started to feel like it was going flat. We pitted a lap later for four tires and we ended up losing a ton of track position. We ended up 35th on the restart.
It didnít look like our day was going to get much better after that. The Harrahís Dodge was really loose and I felt like I was just trying to hang on. We made several adjustments but nothing seemed to give the car the changes it needed.
We made another pit stop after Brian Vickers brought out a caution on lap 122. This time we took a bump-stop rubber out of the right-rear spring and thatís when the Harrahís Dodge came to life. It was like I was driving a totally different race car.
Slowly but surely, we started to advance through the field. After lap 190 we were in the top-20 and looking to crack the top-15. We were around guys who were fighting for top-10 positions in the point standings and the racing was fierce.
The other drivers knew that my car was really strong along the high side of the track, so they would block me to try to hold me off. Let me tell you, those veteran drivers really have some good tricks up their sleeve. Iíve really learned a lot from them this year and itís made me a better driver.
We ended up finishing 16th, our best performance this year. I was so happy for this team because we really deserved to end the year on a high note. This season has been a real struggle for us, so to have something to hang out hat on in the last race of the year is huge. Weíve really become a close knit group this year and they gave me everything they had week-in and week-out.
I would also like to thank Harrahís and all the support theyíve given me this season. Itís been tough, but they have stuck behind me and, for that, Iím truly grateful.
Now the off-season is upon us, but itís no time to relax. Soon weíll be testing and preparing for Daytona which is less than three months away!
~ Larry Foyt