Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 98 Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings team came into Kentucky Speedway with a goal to gain speed and run at the front of the pack to log some laps with the leaders. With the help of some pit strategy and a boost of confidence from the driver's seat, Armstrong maintained a solid spot in the field for the duration of the race and captured his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series top-10 finish in Saturday night's Kentucky 225.
Several changes were made by the No. 98 crew throughout both practice sessions to help Armstrong get through the bumps in the turns. The 20-year-old driver also took some advice and followed his veteran ThorSport Racing teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton on the track, as well as received help with the setup of the truck as Crafton jumped into the No. 98 for a few laps during final practice to diagnose the handling. The strategy worked, and Armstrong knew he had a good truck for the race. Spending most of practice working on race runs, the team didn't get the chance to do any practice qualifying runs and Armstrong put his Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings Chevy in the 20th starting position.
"We had a good handling truck in practice; we just didn't get a chance to do a mock qualifying run and didn't have the speed for one lap during qualifying. I knew once we got into the race the truck would handle really well," Armstrong said.
Armstrong proved his notion right and navigated his Chevy up into the top 15 within the first ten laps, but noticed that the dirty air he was experiencing in traffic further back in the pack was slowing him from gaining any more positions. Crew chief Dan Stillman decided to make the call for fuel only the team's first pit stop of the night to help advance his driver to the front of the pack where he ran as high as third near the mid-point of the race.
The pit strategy call put the team on different schedule than the rest of the leaders, but was necessary to get Armstrong to the front of the pack where the No. 98 machine handled much more to his liking. He continued dance just outside the top-five through the next long run of the evening, but had to stay on pit road a little longer than most during the last pit stop to pack the Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings Silverado full of fuel. The extra few seconds on pit road put Armstrong in the ninth spot when the checkers flew.
"Tonight's run was better than what we've been having so that's a plus. I think we were actually better than where we ended up, but we kind of got off on pit strategy not pitting the same time as the leaders. We made some big adjustments in practice to help get through the bumps and Dan Stillman made great calls during the race to get us where we needed to be," Armstrong evaluated.
"I think in the end our strategy may have hurt us from getting a top-five, but it helped us get up there and stay there for a while because our Silverado ran so much better up in the clean air. It was a great opportunity for our team to run up at the front and really boosted everyone's confidence."
ThorSport Racing PR