TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 16, 2011) – Milka Duno raced to a 19th-place finish in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards 3 Amigos 250 in her first start at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday morning. Sporting a fast CITGO SUPERGARD Toyota, Duno ran within the top-10 before bad luck forced her to make a late-race pit stop and comeback with only eight laps remaining.
“I have very mixed emotions about my debut at Talladega,” said Duno. “On the one hand we had a really good car that performed so well in the practice session, in qualifying, topping the charts in the final practice and in the race today also. The results we generated at this race, in spite of some bad luck, prove that we are competitive. On the other hand, we didn’t leave Talladega with a top-ten finish. We fought hard all day and we never, ever gave up. When we were shuffled back, we fought our way back up – several times. We earned our place in the top-ten several times in the race today but unfortunately, as had happened at Daytona as well; situations out of my control denied us the possibility to finish in the top-ten.”
Duno took the green flag from the outside of row four, which proved to be an unlucky position as she was stuck in the outside lane and freight-trained to the 17th position by lap two. Knowing she had a fast car, the Venezuela-native patiently maintained her position before the first caution came out on lap 15.
Crew Chief Jon Wolfe called his driver to pit road for her first stop of the day. The Sheltra Motorsports team serviced the CITGO SUPERGARD Toyota with two tires and fuel and sent Duno back to the track for the lap 20 restart in the 15th position.
The green flag came back out on lap 20 and the field started to get racy. Running in a tight pack, Duno moved her No. 63 Toyota into the 13th position before another caution slowed the field on lap 27. Choosing not to pit, Duno moved into eighth place and got ready for more green-flag racing.
Lap 33 brought the green flag back out and Duno jumped to the outside looking to move to the seventh position. With no drafting help, the ARCA Racing Series rookie was again freight-trained to the back of the lead pack and fell to 18th by lap 38 when she was finally able to get back in line. Running some of the fastest lap times of the day, Duno began to march back towards the top-10 and made her way up to 13th before the third caution of the day came out on lap 44.
Wolfe brought Duno back down pit road to the attention of her Sheltra Motorsports team during the caution for her second pit stop of the race. Changing two left side tires and adding fuel, the CITGO SUPERGARD team sent their driver back to the track in the 16th position.
The field restarted on lap 49 but only 10 laps later the caution came out for the fourth time of the afternoon. The green flag flew on lap 65 and Duno again powered her Toyota back through the field, marching into the top-10 before the yellow flag flew again on lap 71.
With less than 25 laps remaining the field prepared for a lap 75 restart. As the green flag dropped Duno ran into some bad luck. As the pace car pulled off the track two cars checked up right in front of Duno’s No. 63, causing her to make contact with the ninth-place car in front of her. The contact damaged the radiator duct work and the hood causing Duno’s motor to lose power and run hot. Trying to hold on to her damaged, underpowered car, Duno fell back to 20th before the final caution of the day came out on lap 82.
Making the decision to relinquish track position, Wolfe called his driver down pit road to assess the damage and pull tape off the radiator to help the overheating engine. ARCA Racing Series officials called for a quickie yellow and the Sheltra Motorsports team had only one stop to make repairs to their Toyota. Duno returned to the track in 25th, the last car on the lead lap.
The final restart came on lap 86 setting up an eight-lap dash to the finish. Duno moved forward six positions in those eight laps before running out of time and taking the checkered flag in the 19th position.
“I was really happy with the debut of our Toyota at the Superspeedway,” said Crew Chief Jon Wolfe. “Unfortunately Milka got banged up in a restart near the end of the race. That damaged the radiator duct work and the hood, causing the motor to run hot and to lose power. Milka ran a good race, that damage just hurt us there at the end.”
The ARCA Racing Series will take a weekend off before heading to the short-track at Salem Speedway for the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200. The green flag will drop for 200 laps of short track racing action on Sunday, May 1.