Making his first start on the newly repaved Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday, Dakoda Armstrong and his No. 98 EverFi Toyota team came with a brand new Tundra, prepared for competition. After fighting through loose handling conditions in the first portion of the 50 lap shootout, Armstrong rebounded from a mistake on pit road and claimed the 12th finishing position in the Pocono Mountains 125.
The No. 98 EverFi crew, led by crew chief Dan Stillman, worked out all of the new truck kinks during the only practice session the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) competitors were given on Friday. Stillman made some adjustments to help loosen up Armstrong's Tundra for qualifying, giving him enough speed for the 18th starting position.
With the loose handling conditions returning to the EverFi Tundra in the first few laps after the drop of the green flag on Saturday, Armstrong slide back a few positions and elected to ride it out until the first round of pit stops. Stillman encouraged him to follow the trucks in front of him to help his line.
"These guys in front of us are a little faster right now, let's just ride behind them and see if we can learn something," Stillman relayed to his driver.
Green flag pit stops came up just after lap 20, giving Armstrong's ThorSport Racing pit crew a chance to give their driver the adjustments and four tires he needed. Under the quick pit stop, Armstrong came in too quickly and overshot his pit stall, forcing him to make another lap and come back around for his service. The miscue cost him enough time on the racetrack to put him one lap down to the leaders.
Armstrong's fortune would turn when the second caution of the afternoon came on lap 35, when he was moved back on the lead lap by virtue of the "Lucky Dog" free pass. The caution was a blessing in disguise as it allowed Armstrong to get his lap back, as well as bring his EverFi Tundra down pit road for four fresh tires and more adjustments. He had reported a vibration after the first stop, and the crew discovered a leak in the left rear after the stop.
With just 12 laps of racing remaining after the caution, Armstrong was given little time to improve his running position. Dodging a multi-truck pileup with less than ten laps to go, he kept his nose clean for a 12th place finish.
"I apologize to my EverFi crew for missing the pit stall under our first stop, because that put us in pretty big hole we had to dig out of," Armstrong explained. "But the guys never gave up and we caught a good break to put us back on the lead lap, and then catching that left rear before it went flat was really lucky. Our Tundra was pretty good there at the end, but this race was just too short, and we ran out of laps."