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Gale Nets Top-20 Finish at Atlanta

Cale Gale
Cale Gale
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 10, 2008) — Rookie of the Year contender Cale Gale had never made a lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway until Friday afternoon for the first and only practice session for the Nationwide Series cars. Weather would again play havoc with this weekend’s schedule, but Gale and the No. 77 Rheem team made the most of it by gaining valuable experience and seat time.

During the only practice session on Friday Gale and team worked mainly on race runs. Gale worked tirelessly on trying to find a line on the multi-groove Atlanta Motor Speedway that would work for his No. 77 Rheem machine.

Saturday morning’s qualifying session was canceled not by rain, but by a snow shower that blanketed the Atlanta area. As a result the starting field for the Nicorette 300 was set by NASCAR rules based on the 2007 Owner’s Point standings. Gale and the No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo took the green from the 15th starting position.

With clear skies and windy conditions the race began on schedule. Gale spent the first few laps biding his time trying to align himself behind some of the veteran NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in the field to learn a little more about Atlanta Motor Speedway.

By Lap 10 Gale had settled into the 19th position when the caution flew for the first time. Gale reported to the team that his car was a tick tight but that he could drive it and did not want to make too many changes. Gale followed suit with the leaders and did not pit under the first caution.

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and spotter Andy Houston assisted Gale throughout the race with observations of where he felt Gale’s car worked the best. Under the first caution period Houston and Gale discussed which lines the leaders were running and how best to take entry into the corner.

Caution flew for the second time on lap 29. Gale continued to report a progressively worsening tight-handling race car. The following lap Gale brought the No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo to the attention of the team on pit road for fuel and four tires, with an air pressure adjustment.

As competition resumed the race began a long green-flag stretch. Gale continued to search for a line where his car would turn the best. By the third caution on lap 48 Gale was still battling a tight condition but the team decided not to pit to gain some track position.

Three distinct grooves began to take affect as Gale settled into the bottom groove. Another long green-flag run helped Gale as the No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo seemed to need a long stretch to come to full potential. On lap 58 Gale passed fellow Rookie of the Year contender Bryan Clauson for the 17th position and spot as top rookie of the race.

Gale continued to learn as he followed NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Greg Biffle around the track for the majority of the afternoon.

On lap 87 Gale brought the No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo down pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. The team changed four tires, loaded the car with fuel and made a track bar adjustment to help alleviate the tight condition.

As green-flag stops cycled through Gale found himself in the 24th position one lap behind the leaders. The caution flew for the fourth time on lap 101. As fortune would have it Gale was one car away from receiving the “lucky dog” award and getting back on the lead lap.

Gale remained focused as he continued to battle other cars on his lap for position. On lap 117 Gale radioed to the crew that the car was “plowing”. He was sliding the nose hard through the center and was getting very close to the wall.

The caution flew for the fifth time on lap 141. Gale brought the No. 77 Rheem car to the attention of the crew. The team pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Upon looking at the tires that came off the car, the right front tire was worn to the cords on the inside wall, a testament to the extreme tight conditions of Gale’s No. 77 Rheem Monte Carlo.

Gale continued to battle a tight condition despite all the adjustments that had been made throughout the day. As the race drew to a close his car began to free up somewhat as he changed his entry into and exit out of the corners. The No. 77 Rheem team brought the car to pit road on lap 170 after the caution flew for the sixth time of the afternoon. The team gave Gale four fresh tires, fuel and another track bar adjustment.

On lap 189 the race was red-flagged for a brief period following a three car incident on the back stretch. Gale and the No. 77 Rheem team battled in the closing laps picking off cars on their lap, finishing the race in the 20th position.

“Today really was all about learning,” said Gale. “I had never made a lap here at Atlanta until Friday. This place is big, it is fast, and it is rough. I really learned a lot not only about my car, but about how to find a line at this place. My entire No. 77 Rheem team did a great job. I was able to get in 300 miles and we finished with a top 20 and as top rookie of the race. I’m pretty pleased with today’s performance.”

Next up for the No. 77 VFW Chevrolet: Cale Gale and the No. 77 VFW Chevrolet will return to the track for the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe’s (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 24, 2008. The Carquest Auto Parts 300 can be seen live on ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m., ET.

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