March 18, 2013 – Bristol, TN – Austin Wayne Self and his Cunningham Motorsports team tackled the fast high-banked Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday, in his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) point’s race, the DRIVE4COPD125.
After making his K&N Series debut in the non-points inaugural UNOH Battle of the Beach at Daytona International Speedway, Self needed to change his driving style for the .533-mile Bristol track. With guidance from car chief/NASCAR driver, Tim Andrews and spotter, Richard Coleman, Self made major adjustments in how he drove the corners in the high banking. In comparison-at the flat .444-mile track at Daytona, Self couldn’t find enough brakes; whereas, at Bristol, Andrews and Coleman coached Self on the use of little to no brakes as the preferred method there.
Self proved to be a quick learner as he made adjustments to his driving style, posting the 20th speed on the timing charts in the first practice session. With changes made by the crew, Self felt more comfortable when the second 75 minute practice session began. Within 15 minutes Self found himself smacking the wall after sliding in oil when a competitor lost his oil pan. The crew worked feverishly to complete repairs in time to send Self back out before practice was over. Those plans were quickly abandoned when crew chief, Paul Andrews, determined it was more important to get the car right for his young rookie in preparation for qualifying.
After the crew worked until the final moment to make it through technical inspection, Self took to the track for his qualifying run…clocking the 15th quickest speed.
Self lost a few positions at the drop of the green flag, but quickly figured out which line worked best for his AM Technical Solutions Dodge. Austin had taken over the 14th spot on lap 68, just prior to another competitor getting into Self’s right rear quarter panel. The contact caused a tire rub on the #77. With a couple of laps before the competition halfway break, Self hung onto the ill-handling Dodge until the yellow flew. With all competitors in the pits, the crew examined the damage done by the contact. During the 5 minute recess the crew repaired the right rear damage, pulling the sheet metal off of the tire, adjusted the track bar and added half a can of fuel.
On the restart on lap 73, Self lined up 23rd and got right to work, picking up three spots in 4 laps. During the remaining laps, Self had the front row seat on three wrecks, narrowly missing all three. In spite of all of the cautions in the final 50 laps, Self continued to pick off positions, telling Andrews, “The car is feeling real good now.” By lap 102 Austin had made it back to 14th, where he was prior to the right rear contact. With sprinkles hitting the track, Self took the checkered flag in 12th.
After climbing from the #77 Self commented, “The team worked super hard this weekend at Bristol. Even when we struggled the team gave 100%. We made the best of what we were given!”
Next on Self’s schedule with his Cunningham Motorsports team will be the Richmond NKNPSE race on April 25 at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway