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Gale 23rd in KHI No. 77 Chevrolet at Daytona

Cale Gale
Cale Gale
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 18, 2008) — With the NASCAR Nationwide Series officially under way, 2008 Rookie of the Year contender Cale Gale prepared to make his first Nationwide Series start at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) No. 77 Rheem Chevrolet.

Teams unloaded Tuesday morning and began preparing for Saturday’s Camping World 300. Gale took to the famous 2.5-mile track for the first of two practices Wednesday and posted a lap time of 50.490 (178.253 mph), placing him 39th among the 50 cars. For final practice on Thursday, the No. 77 Rheem Chevrolet improved to the 26th position with a lap time of 49.074 (183.397 mph).

Gale qualified the No. 77 Rheem Chevrolet 31st, but following qualifying NASCAR found an infraction on the No. 77 Rheem Chevrolet disallowing Gale’s time and moving him to the back of the 43-car field.

Starting the Camping World 300 from the 39th position, Gale began the race with the goal of survival. Slowly making his way through the 43-car field, Gale remained focused and radioed crew chief Ernie Cope to let him know that the car was extremely tight.

Due to the tight-handling condition of the car, Gale had to search for lines where he would have the ability to turn the car through the corners. Gale remained inside the top 25 through the first portion of the race

The No. 77 team made their first scheduled green-flag pit stop of the season on lap 38 stopping for four tires, fuel, a tire pressure and wedge adjustment. The team sent Gale back out hoping they had helped alleviate the tight-handling condition.

After the first cycle of pit stops Gale and team found themselves one lap behind the leaders. Hanging tough in the draft Gale continued to battle a tight-handling race car and searched for cars and lines that would help his issue.

The second caution of the race fell at lap 54 proving to be a major break for the No. 77 Rheem team. Gale was the first car one lap down and received the “lucky dog” free pass. The team brought the car down pit road for four tires, fuel and to put a rubber in the right rear spring. Gale told the team that they had helped the tight condition in the back of the car, but he was still having trouble with the front end of the car sliding through the corners.

As the half-way mark approached at lap 60, Gale had managed to stay out of the early incidents and was scored in the 23rd position.

By lap 73 Gale radioed the crew to let them know that the car was fading away again, as the tires were wearing down the car was becoming harder to turn.

The caution flew for the third time on lap 78. Gale brought the car to the attention of the No. 77 Rheem team for four fresh tires, fuel and to remove the rubber from the right rear. After a good pit stop, Gale gained three positions returning to competition in the 20th position.

As the laps wound down in the Camping World 300 all seemed to remain calm until lap 96 when the No. 59 car had tire trouble on the backstretch. Gale radioed his crew to let them know that he had run over some debris at full speed and he thought that had caused damage to the nose of the car.

The team brought the car to pit road to make repairs and provide fresh tires. The valance of the No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo was severely bent underneath the front of the car. Gale tried to make the best of what he had as the caution flew for the fourth and final time on lap 111. Gale and team decided to bring the No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo down pit road one final time to put on tires since Gale believed he had flat spotted them while trying to avoid the final on-track incident.

Gale and the Rheem team managed to bring the car home in one piece recording a 23rd-place finish.

“I must admit I am just glad to have brought the No. 77 Rheem Chevrolet home in one piece today,” commented Gale after the race. “Being a rookie it is difficult to get anyone to work with you on these restrictor plate tracks. We tried to keep our nose clean all day and brought home a top-25 finish. I wish we could have gotten the car turning a little better, but I will be back in the No. 77 Rheem Chevrolet in Atlanta and we will see what we can do with it then.”

Next up for the No. 77 KHI Chevrolet: Cale Gale and the No. 77 Rheem team will return to the track for the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 8, 2008. The Nicorette 300 can be seen live on ESPN 2 at 1:30 p.m., ET.

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