There’s no other track on the NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit remotely comparable to Darlington’s leading lady. To leave unscathed after 147 laps of choreography at the “Lady in Black” is considered a successful effort.
New sponsor Fix-A-Flat made its’ NASCAR Nationwide Series debut on Mike Bliss’ No. 19 Toyota Camry. Ironically, Bliss and the Fix-A-Flat Camry started Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 from the 19th starting spot.
Bliss’ race car was lively from the start. Fighting a tight condition, Bliss and Crew Chief Paul Clapprood were quick to talk adjustments. Over the radio, Bliss said, “I’m loose off four and I’m not getting into one and two comfortably.”
A caution came at lap 24 for a spin off turn two. Bliss and Clapprood now had their chance to make the Fix-A-Flat Camry more comfortable for the veteran driver. Clapprood directed his team, “We’ll go one down on the track bar, put some air in the right front, put scuffs on and a full can of fuel.” Agreeing with the changes, Bliss came down pit road. Restarting 22nd, Bliss quickly began battling a loose race car.
In the next ten laps Bliss fought to gain positions on the racetrack, until a caution came out at lap 34 involving his TriStar Motorsports teammate Eric McClure. “The car is still loose. I don’t think we need tires or fuel; let’s just make a track bar and tire pressure adjustment,” said Bliss.
Still not finding a happy-medium, the handling of the Fix-A-Flat Camry went from one extreme to another. Bliss was now fighting a tight race car in the 24th position, when caution number three fell at lap 51. This time Bliss and Clapprood agreed to raise the track bar, put another set of scuffed tires on and take on a full tank of Sunoco race fuel.
Bliss restarted in the 20th position when the race commenced on lap 55. With only 13 cars on the lead lap, Bliss maintained the 19th position for 55-laps. Still fighting a tight race car, Clapprood and Bliss decided to make a green flag stop to put on a set of fresh Goodyear tires and fill the tank of fuel.
The fourth and final caution came at lap 120 when a car spun off turn two. The four fresh Goodyears’ were not enough to change the handling of Bliss’ Camry, this time the No. 19 Fix-A-Flat team took a round of wedge out of the right rear and went back up one round on the track bar.
With 22 more laps remaining Bliss settled into the 19th position and remained there through the wave of the checkered flag.
At the end of the race Bliss said, “It felt like I was treading water the whole race; gaining positions was a challenge. My guys worked really hard making lots of adjustments just to try and find a balance. I greatly appreciate Fix-A-Flat coming on board for the race; I wish I could have gotten a better finish for them.”
Going into the off-weekend, Bliss will remain in the 11th spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings, only two points out of the top ten.