Hitting the track for Sunday's NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300, Mike Bliss earned his 10th career start at the 1.5-mile tri-oval of Chicagoland Speedway. With ample practice time, Bliss and his team were confident in their No. 19 Toyota Camry as they qualified 14th for the third annual event. As the track got hotter, Bliss' comfort went away as he fought an ill-handling can and made two clutch saves during the 200 lap event resulting in a 19th place finish.
During a late race gamble, Crew Chief Paul Clapprood decided to keep Bliss out while most of the leaders pitted for tires and fuel. At a venue where track position is key, the call put Bliss in second position for the restart. Fresher tires prevailed tough and Bliss slid into seventh position by lap 130. While racing in the top-10, Bliss' Toyota got loose and he was forced to chase it up the track, lightly scraping the wall with his right rear and sending his No. 19 Camry sideways through traffic. With no caution displayed, Bliss' veteran instincts came in to play as he gained control and proceeded to race in the 16th position.
As the NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers set into a long green flag run they began conserving on fuel. Bliss and Clapprood knew they
were going to be short on fuel, so they made the decision to bring the No. 19 down pit road. Racing off turn three to make the abrupt entrance to pit road, Bliss experienced trouble slowing his Camry down fast enough to make the commitment cones. Consequently, the caution came out and Bliss had to tame his Toyota in order to continue around the 1.5-mile track.
This was the break most teams were looking for. Bliss refueled and got back on track, restarting in 17th position. As the third annual race resumed with 23 laps remaining Bliss slipped two positions but hung on to finish 19th.
"I was very fortunate that no one hit me during the mid-race spin," said Bliss. "My car was doing a lot of things; both loose and tight throughout the race. My guys worked really hard and I appreciate their effort. I wish we could have finished better."
Bliss' 19th place finish at Chicagoland Speedway marks his 15th top-20 finish in 18 races. He still maintains the 13th spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver Point Standings. Bliss and his team will reintroduce the No. 19 Tweaker Energy Shot Camry as they charge into Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Saturday's Nationwide Series 250.