Victor Gonzalez, Jr. struggled with a multitude of handling issues throughout Saturday's Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International, but persevered to bring his No. 99 Delta Commercial/IMCA Toyota Camry to the checkered flag in the 16th position.
The No. 99 team's 11th top-20 finish of the 2012 season advanced team owner Robby Benton one position, to 18th, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner point standings. With 21 of 33 races complete, Benton's RAB Racing team trails 15th-place in the standings by just 34 markers.
Although weather wreaked havoc with Friday's schedule, final Nationwide Series practice was able to be held. The abbreviated session started on a wet surface as steady rain forced the teams to use rain tires, but Gonzalez showed his prowess by posting the second-fastest time. As the surface dried and teams switched to their standard slick tires, Gonzalez was able to maintain the 11th-best overall time. Saturday morning, the Puerto Rican driver recorded a lap of 73.550 seconds, at an average speed of 119.918 mph, to earn the 16th starting position for the 200-mile event later that afternoon.
Despite developing a significant tight-handling condition after the green flag waved, Gonzalez was able to maintain a position inside the top 20 for the opening segment of the event. As the race ran under green-flag conditions, crew chief Scott Zipadelli called Gonzalez to pit road for scheduled service, taking on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to correct the handling issues of the Delta Commercial/IMCA Toyota. A lightning-fast stop by the RAB Racing pit crew allowed the 37-year-old driver to maintain his position as he rejoined the field.
Gonzalez continued to maintain pace as the laps clicked off. Following the team's second and final scheduled pit stop, Gonzalez found himself running in 18th when a late-race incident brought out the caution flag. Feeling like their chances to gain position would suffer greatly if they did not pit for fresh tires, Zipadelli decided to alter the team's strategy and pit one additional time. The gamble was risky, but it paid dividends for the No. 99 team as Gonzalez was able to maintain the 16th-position as the race came to a conclusion.
"It was a tough race," said Gonzalez. "We started out with a little push, and then as we made changes, we got loose. We were working hard at that, trying to get the balance where I needed it. When the Cup drivers come over here and race in the Nationwide Series, it changes everything. At the end of the day, we had a good Toyota Camry. We put new tires on at the end, and I thought we had a good strategy to go and try to get a top 10, but we didn't this time. Still, the guys did a good job. Everyone at RAB Racing worked hard to give me a very fast car. Scott Zipadelli (crew chief) made great calls, the guys in the pits worked awesome, but this time the driver failed. We'll get them next time."
RAB Racing PR