TABLES FINALLY TURN FOR JOANIDES AT KENTUCKY WITH A 4TH PLACE FINISH.
After a season with great performances, but horrible luck, resulting in no top 10 finishes going into Kentucky, Nick Joanides and his EDS Motorsports team hoped to get on the right track. This time however the tables were completely reversed as it appeared their season was not going to improve at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying just 26th out of 30 cars, nearly three seconds off the pace. This event was a special combination race between the Southeast Series and Midwest series. The Southeast series clearly had the advantage at Kentucky, where restrictor plates are used to slow the cars overall speed. The Midwest series teams had never competed in a restrictor plate race, where as the Southeast series has several restrictor plate events and their experience showed as they took 17 of the top 20 positions in qualifying. Nicks times were just 8/10ths of a second off of the majority of the Midwest series competitors.
Due to the restrictor plates, drafting plays a huge role in these races, much like the Cup series at Daytona and Talledega. Nick hoped that in the draft, his car would be better and his experience would play a role as in his other restrictor plate race in Las Vegas he finished a solid 7th. But things did not seem to improve at the start of the race. Although he was able to move up to the 18th position by lap 2 when the first caution flew, the car was extremely loose, forcing Nick to lift off the gas in the corners. Nick came in and took fuel and made an adjustment. On the restart, Nick was again able to get a great jump, passing 5 cars in the first lap after the restart, however the car was still way too loose. Another caution flew at lap 17 and Nick headed back down pit road for more adjustments, which did finally help the handling of the car.
Nick again got a great jump on the restart and picked up several positions, however the first long green flag run came and while he was now able to run full throttle all the way around the race track, Nick still suffered badly on the straight-aways and continuously lost positions on the track. It was discovered by viewing race photos that Nick was not able to get the car to "sink" into the race track as well as the fastest cars were, due completely different setups on the cars. Nicks car handled extremeley well in the corners, but it appeared that the straight-away speed was suffering as result of an inferior aerodynamic body placement as the body on the car is set up for alot of downforce to provide superior corner speed, but at a restrictor plate track like Kentucky where you drive with your foot to the floor all the way around the race track, corner downforce is not needed and this downforce actually puts drag on the car down the straight-aways. At a restrictor plate track like Kentucky, you do not want the car to have downforce, so it will slide easily through the air without any restriction. Nick was able to use the draft to keep up, however cars behind him had much more straightaway speed and were able to draft Nick and shoot past him at the end of each straight. Nick however could not do the same as each time he pulled out of the draft to make a pass, it was like hitting a brick wall of air and the car would dramatically slow down. At this point, Nick felt like he was in for another long night.
But then the second half of the race came and it got ugly, as several multi car accidents took out many of the top competitors. Nick finally gave up on passing cars and stayed tightly glued to the car in front to stay in the draft since every time he tried to pull out, the lack of straightaway speed would send him backwards. Nick managed to stay out of trouble and finish in the fourth position in the Midwest Series, by far his best finish of the season. "It's amazing, we've been a solid top 3 or 5 car at just about every race before tonight, yet our horrible luck has prevented us from a top 10 finish in all of them, then we come here and we are the slowest we've been all year and end up with a top 5 finish" Joanides commented. "I guess this is a little payback for all of the good finishes that we should have had, but were taken away due to bad luck. We definitely stole a top 5 finish tonight".
With his fourth place finish and just one more race remaining in the 2005 Midwest Series season, Nick moves up from 11th in the standings to the 10th position, just 6 points out of 9th, 10 points out of 8th and still mathematically capable of catching as high as the 5th place driver in the standings, which puts him in position to qualify for the All-Star Showdown at the end of the season, which takes the top 10 teams from each of the four Elite Divisions across the country and puts them in a 40 car field at Irwindale Speedway for the live, nationally televised event, which is the richest event in the history of the Elite Division with over $500,000 in prize money posted.