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Monday, August 10, 2015

A Lap Around the Track with NASCAR's James Bickford: Iowa Speedway

On Friday, July 30th, Interstate Plastics sponsored James Bickford returned to Newton, Iowa for Iowa Speedway’s Thanks Kenny 150. Bickford took home sixth place in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series combination race, scoring third among the K&N West contenders. Fellow K&N West driver Brandon McReynolds took home the trophy for the 131.25 mile event and Interstate Plastics got footage from the day’s events. Watch it all here.

Thursday, July 30th
James arrived to the track around noon to unload the trailer and put his no. 6 car through tech inspection.

That evening, he stayed at the Microtel Inn and Suites in Newton. He and his team went to Prairie Meadows: Casino, Race Track and Hotel, where they ate dinner and spent some time relaxing. Too young to spend time in the casino, James “sat outside by myself and watched the horse races.”

Friday, July 31st

9:00AM: The NASCAR K&N Pro Series garage opened.

10:30AM – 11:00AM: James participated in a NASCAR Next sponsored Q&A with the Midwestern Boys and Girls Club.

11:00AM – 12:30PM: James finished first practice P12 with a best lap of 24.751 seconds. About first practice, he said, “The car felt really good. When we first went out, the car was scraping a little bit…it was either because the track was getting hot or the tires were going away.” He added, “We were fighting...First it’d be really loose, and then it’d be really tight…It took like two or three times of me going out [on the track] for the scraping to stop.”

To fix it, James and his crew did a “right-front wedge adjustment…and maybe a few spacers in the front.” The team made minor adjustment after minor adjustment until the car stopped scraping.

1:30PM – 2:30PM: James finished final practice P8 with a best lap of 24.521 seconds.

3:15PM – 4:15PM: James attended a mandatory autograph session, hosted by NASCAR.

5:00PM - 5:45PM: James qualified P2 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series combination race.
“Heading into qualifying I knew we had a really good shot. I knew that if I just drove the wheels off the car, we’d be set. For the first ten guys, there was a huge cloud cover that cooled down the track. So I knew it was going to be a challenge because Brandon [McReynolds] was going out first, and he got to cool the track down, which makes the car a little bit faster. And he qualified on the pole, and…held it up until me. I knew I had to beat him to get the pole…I went out there and drove as hard as I could into the corner. It was almost ridiculous how far I did.”
James missed the pole to fellow K&N West driver Brandon McReynolds by a mere 0.012 seconds: “one or two feet, maybe.” Bickford and McReynolds capped the starting line, making it the first time in Iowa Speedway history for two K&N Pro Series West drivers to do so.

Unlike his first time at Iowa Speedway in the 2015 season, James had a disappointed reaction to his second place qualifier. “It was more like, ‘Aw, man, I qualified second,’” he explained.

6:30PM – 6:45PM: James and his crew chief Bill Sedgewick attended a meeting.

7:30PM - 7:50PM: Driver introductions took place. Watch it here.

8:00PM - 10:00PM: James started P2 in the 131.25-mile Thanks Kenny 150 event. He quickly moved to P3 after getting passed by no. 98 K&N East driver Rico Abreu. After the first caution and restart, James moved to P4. During the second restart following another caution, James remembers spinning his tires and going to short shift as usual. (Short shifting means making a pre-mature shift change after the tires spin, causing the tires to stop spinning for a quick start.) But during the short shift, the motor bogged down, and James was passed by three cars

After the restart following the halfway break, James climbed from seventh to eighth place before another caution flag was waved.

“I was actually happy to sit eighth…I had a really great restart and went crazy with something like fifteen laps to go, and passed all the way up to fourth place…I passed four cars in about one lap.”

From fourth, James was soon passed by no. 7 Noah Gragson and no. 5 J.J. Haley. He finally crossed the finish line at sixth place. About his finish, James said, “It wasn’t a bad run for the Sunrise Ford/ Interstate Plastics car. It was a good run for us, but I really wish I hadn’t messed up that restart. We probably could’ve finished top-3.”

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series Thanks Kenny 150 will be televised by NBCSN on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 4:00PM. PST. Team James Bickford will race next on Saturday, August 15th at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington.

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