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Bires Battles Hard to ‘Clean Up’ at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Marcos Ambrose
Kelly Bires
Kelly Bires brought the No. 47 Clorox Ford home in 12th place in today’s running of the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was a hard fought finish and the JTG Racing team had to overcome some obstacles along the way. By the time the dust cleared, the Clorox car had finally cleaned up—earning them a spot in the top-10 of the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings.

After rolling off of the starting grid in 26th place after qualifying was cancelled, Bires quickly read what the car was willing to give him in both the short runs and the long hauls. The No. 47 Clorox Ford was extremely loose from the outset for the first eight to ten laps of a run. After the tire pressures settled in, the car would come to life and Bires was able to make serious progress.

The No. 47 Clorox team would be tested on their first pit stop of the day. Following a caution period for a two-car incident on the front stretch, Bires came down pit road with the other lead lap cars. Just prior to entering his pit box, the No. 37 car of Greg Biffle got into the left rear quarter panel and spun the No. 47 car sideways in his pit box. The alert over-the-wall pit crew members scattered to keep from getting hit, and Crew Chief Scott Zipadelli calmly urged Bires to wait until the pit road traffic cleared out before backing up and re-entering his stall. The setback pushed the team back to the 28th spot in the running order on the lap 33 restart.

Kelly Bires began his march to the front by pacing teammate Marcos Ambrose. Soon afterward, he passed him and the No. 47 Clorox Ford really began to come to life between laps 50-100. Bires moved all the way up to 16th spot in the running order prior to a green flag pit stop on lap 89. When the caution flag flew for a lap 101 incident involving Brad Coleman, Zipadelli wisely kept Bires out on the track and the team inherited some cherished track position. Bires restarted 10th on lap 106 of the 195-lap event.

Bires continued to flirt with the top-10 running order over the next 50 laps. The dominant car of the day, the No. 20 driven by Kyle Busch, finally met his match with just 25 laps to go. A right front tire failure doomed Busch’s day, despite him leading a race-high 153 laps. With just 22 laps to go, all of the lead lap cars came down pit road, but the strategies for the finish were different across the board. Zipadelli changed four tires on the No. 47 Clorox Ford, but teammate Marcos Ambrose took fuel only in a bid to gain further track position. Bires restarted 14th with just 20 laps to go.

Despite two caution flags and one red-flag clean up delay all inside the final 10 laps, Bires picked his way through the carnage to come home solidly in 12th place. Teammate Ambrose was one spot ahead in 11th at the Checkered Flag. All week long, Bires repeatedly stated how his team’s efforts should be landing the No. 47 Clorox Ford top-10 finishes each week. Though he didn’t end up there in the Nicorette 300 finishing order, the team has most certainly now laid a claim to that spot in the overall NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings.

Kelly Bires, Driver of the No. 47 Clorox Ford:
“We kind of got messed up on that final restart or I think we would have finished sixth through eighth. I’m not sure what the No. 6 and No. 16 cars did, but I had to check up on the throttle going into turn one and that just killed our momentum on those last two laps. I’m OK with the finish, though. I think this team is getting it done each week. And we’re not necessarily having anything handed to us, either.

My guys on pit road did a great job all day, especially recovering from our first stop. Scott [Zipadelli] saved us a great set of tires to put on the car there at the end and this Clorox car was really moving. All in all, it was a pretty fun day out here. I heard that, unofficially, we’re in the top-10 in points now and that’s really special. But it really just makes me want even more for this program. I can’t wait for next week at Bristol.”

Scott Zipadelli, Crew Chief of the No. 47 Clorox Ford:
“This was an all-day affair and a day in which we had to maintain our focus every lap. Kelly fought very hard for us today—he just drove his heart out and we’re very proud of him. I’m also proud of the guys on pit road. We had to overcome a near-disaster on our first stop when we got turned. Kelly entered the pit box sideways and sliding away from us. We just had him stop, hold the brake and wait until we could get the car backed up and into the pit box the right way. He didn’t panic and didn’t try anything stupid--and that saved our car for the rest of the day.

Needless to say, it paid off. It wasn’t the top-10 we were shooting for, but we’re not disappointed at all. That’s three top-15 finishes in the first four races, and I think that put us in the top-10 in overall points.”

-Kelly Bires drove the No. 47 Clorox Ford to a 12th place finish in the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
-Bires had to overcome a tap and a spin on pit road during the team’s first pit stop on lap 29.
-Matt Kenseth won the Nicorette 300, followed by Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte rounded out the top-five finishers on the day.
-Kelly Bires and the No. 47 Clorox Ford team are now 10th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points.

WHERE: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, TN
WHAT: Sharpie MINI 300 (300 laps, 160 miles)
WHEN: March 15th, 2008; 2:30 p.m. EDT
NETWORK: ESPN 2 Network; PRN & Sirius Satellite Radio Networks

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