David Gilliland soldiered through a tough day at Bristol Motor Speedway to bring the #71 Capital Window/TRG Motorsports Chevrolet home in 36th position - but that was good enough to help the team achieve a minor aim in its first season in the Sprint Cup.
With five rounds of the 2009 championship now in the book, the list of guaranteed starters will be shaken up on a weekly basis, with the current top 35 in owners' points eligible for a free pass to raceday. Gilliland's 36th-place finish in the Food City 500, unremarkable as it seems, was just enough to keep the #71 team 35th overall - and locked into next weekend's race at Martinsville.
"To finish in the top 35 in owner points has been our original goal and we got it," team principal Kevin Buckler admitted, "You have to persevere through the tough weekends - it is just as important to do that as it is to celebrate the good weekends. This team has a lot of character, and we will be ready for next weekend."
Starting from 14th, Gilliland quickly moved up into the top ten but, on the team's third pit-stop, the crew had trouble with the right front wheel, costing him ten places on the short 0.533-mile track. Soon afterwards, Gilliland was caught by the leader and sent down a lap, and subsequently had to fight with his car's handling as the race progressed. Two flat tyres under green cost the team additional laps - a situation compounded by caution flags flying just after they pitted.
"The race started out really well for us," Gilliland said, "I was able to run up in the top ten at the beginning and had a lot of confidence in the car but, on the pit-stop, we had a problem with the lug nuts on the right front and that put us back ten places when we were running in the top 20 - and then we went down a lap.
"We could never really recover [from that]. The car started to get tighter and tighter as the day went on. It was really too good early, then it started to get tight rolling through the centre across the corner, and it continued to get worse. We will have to take a good hard look at the car when we get it back to the shop and see where we fell out of adjustment.
"We also had two flat tyres under green and pitted - and then a caution came out right after both of them and that lost us five laps, so it just wasn't our day today."