Eddie MacDonald opened the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season with an impressive drive from the back of the field to post a seventh place finish in the Drive4COPD 125 on the famed “World’s Fastest Half Mile.” The race had special meaning for the team as it displayed the “Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week” logo in support of Megan Spaulding, the daughter of team owners Karla and Rob Grimm, who was recently diagnosed with the disease.
After a disappointing qualifying run on Thursday, the Grimm Construction Toyota started 30th in the 36 car field on Saturday with Eddie Mac saying, “We really expected to post a good qualifying lap but it just didn’t happen. The car was fast in practice so we knew we would be okay in the race. It is a brand new Gibb’s car and it was the first time we ever had it on a track. Rollie and I decided to ride along and take what we could get without wrecking or using up the tires and then make adjustments at the break around lap 70. Everyone knows Bristol is a tough, unforgiving track, so patience is a necessity.”
When the green flag waved, MacDonald wasted little time picking off cars. By the first of seven cautions on lap 6, Eddie Mac rode in the 23rd position. At the third caution on lap 29, the veteran driver from Rowley, Mass. rode comfortably in the 15th spot saying, “The car was pretty good. It was just a little free everywhere but I was riding easy and really not pushing it at all. We were good on the bottom of the track and I was able to pick up a lot of positions especially on the restarts.”
When the yellow waved for the mandatory five minute break on lap 70, Eddie Mac was 11th. After a track bar and wedge adjustments the #71 headed back to the track for the final stretch. No team was allowed to change tires for the race unless for a flat time, so MacDonald knew tire management was essential for a good finish saying, “I knew that we would all be sliding around by the end of the race on the same tires but the car was handling pretty good. We decided to tighten it up just a bit but we may have gone a little too far. It started to get tight the closer we got to the finish. We were really good with the sun on the track but then it clouded over and that affected the handling.”
Despite the car tightening up, the Grimm MS Awareness Toyota moved steadily to the front and restarted on lap 102 after the sixth caution flag in the eighth spot. The final yellow flag on lap 107 reset the field for the lap 110 restart. With five laps to go, the #71 was eighth and gained one more position on the final lap to finish seventh.
“I really wanted to finish fifth but the car was just too tight at the end,” said MacDonald. “I am happy with the run and it was a lot of fun racing at Bristol. We had a bad crash here last year and destroyed our car so it was great to finish where we did and bring the car home in one piece. Rollie, the crew and I are pleased to have a good run for the Grimm family. They are having a tough time right now so it means a lot to have a solid run for them and help to raise awareness for MS.”
Crew chief Rollie LaChance was equally satisfied with the finish saying, “I am really happy to come home in seventh place. We started in the back and passed a lot of cars. It is always fun when you get the car going forward and run well.”
“I also want to thank the crew for all the hard work,” said MacDonald. “We had three UNOH students, Kody, Thomas, and Brett on our team and they did a great job for us. We have had UNOH students as part of our crew the past couple of seasons and they are always well prepared and professional.”
The team has a quick turnaround with the second race of the K&N season scheduled for Greenville Pickens Speedway (S.C.) on Saturday, March 23. The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 125 will be presented by G-Clean.