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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Lap Around the Track With NASCAR’s James Bickford: Iowa Speedway

Interstate Plastics sponsored NASCAR driver James Bickford is no stranger to bad luck on the racetrack this season. Number 6 Bickford ended an otherwise exceptional race day at Iowa Speedway with a 24th place finish following a minor crash in the Casey’s General Store 150 on May 16th. Bickford spent some time with me to discuss the gritty details of the unfortunate crash and his weekend in Iowa.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Bickford flew out to Cedar Rapids, IA for a NASCAR Next appearance.

Thursday, May 14, 2015
5:30am: Bickford woke up to participate in a radio interview with WMT Newsradio, Cedar Rapids News Talk Sports.

1:00pm: Bickford drove to Des Moines, IA for a K&N Pro Series West appearance at an Advanced Auto Parts store. It rained the entire time and Bickford recalled that not many fans showed up. “But it was still great to be able to do that for K&N,” he said.

Friday, May 15, 2015
10:30am: Bickford spent a typical afternoon at the Newton Speedway racetrack, going through routine matters such as tech inspection and practice laps.

8:00pm: Bickford headed back to his hotel, Microtel Inn and Suites (Newton, IA), and watched an “amazing” truck race between Erik Jones and Kasey Kahne.

Saturday, May 16, 2015
8:00am: “I woke up Saturday morning and went to the track. I had a nice breakfast sandwich made by Wolf and Steve, our two truck drivers. It was bacon and hash browns and scrambled eggs on rye toast…So I ate that and did my normal program:  strawberry banana GUU, along with my shot blocs, an all-day vitamin, and washed it down with some Gatorade G2.”

10:00am – 10:55am: Bickford ran a 28.4 second practice lap, which ranked him 11th by the early morning. “I hopped in my car and it was really fast right out of the gate, and it took me a little bit to get used to the track, which was significantly different from Tucson [Speedway]. But as soon as I got in a rhythm our car was always fast.”

12:30pm – 1:30pm: Bickford wished that he could’ve placed higher in the final practice run, but had a faulty mock run. He said: “I knew we had a really fast car, but didn’t know quite how fast. It t was kind of a guess as to where we’d end up in qualifying.”

3:00pm – 4:00pm: Bickford participated in a very-rainy NASCAR autograph session. “It rained the whole time. I had one of my driver cards and held it over my head to stop the rain…My dad ended up coming [to the session with an umbrella] and I called him my ‘umbrella girl.’ But he came about thirty minutes after the rain had started, so I still got a pretty significant amount of rain on me.”

4:15pm – 5:30pm: Bickford attended a Drivers and Crew Chiefs Meeting.

6:00pm – 7:15pm: Regarding his qualifying lap, Bickford said: “I strapped in, took off, and the car felt really great…really fast. It was an amazing feeling…I almost thought I had the pole, but I ended up qualifying third.”

He added, “My dad recorded my lap on Periscope [a livestream social media app] and my car owner Bob Bruncati was jumping and cheering… hugging people on top of the hauler…It was a really emotional video…” He continued, “It was amazing to watch…That was like a win for us. Last year we were not in competition at all…and to go out qualifying third…was an amazing feeling and I’m really looking forward to going back.” Bickford ended up with a final qualifying placement of fourth. Brian McReynolds qualified directly after Bickford and set the pole for the night’s race.

8:00pm – 9:00pm: The Casey’s General Store 150 began. “I started fourth and was really excited about my car because it was so fast. Then we moved back two positions, kind of hanging out, for a good 25 to 30 laps that we were in competition.”

“Around lap 40, the caution [flag] came out. And, you know, a normal caution for us, we just went around the track…maybe three or four times to get everything cleaned up.” Number 12 driver Gray Gaulding had a blown right, front tire, which caused the caution flag to wave.  He added, “We were restarting seventh, took the green, and then the car just lost all steering going into the corners… We went from 7th to about 37th in about two laps, so there was obviously a significant problem and I knew that. And about the third lap I was running with this problem, my car started scraping, so I knew for a fact that it was a right, front going down…And finally… the right, front tire blew and I ended up hitting the outside wall on turn four.”

“[W]e came into the pit area and we changed the right, front as quick as possible, and we were trying to beat out the damage, but we really didn’t need to. We ended up going…two laps down. So we were really fighting that for the rest of the day…and kind of kept riding out the laps.”

“After we came in for the halfway break and we got to change all four tires, the car felt a lot better. We were actually running times as fast as the top-10 [drivers] were… So we had a really fast car.” Bickford ended up finishing 24th among all NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East drivers.

At the end of our interview Bickford reflected on his 24th place finish. “I felt like we could’ve done so much better; we could’ve competed for a win…It was just such a bummer deal because we had such a fast car... but we’ll go back next time and try to get a win there.” And with that, Bickford is gearing up for his May 30th race at Shasta Speedway in Anderson, CA!

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