ARCA - Milka Duno Survives a Busy Season Finale to Finish 18th at Toledo
"We had a good car for the race. The guys did a great job with the car because in the second lap of the first practice session the car caught fire and we lost all of the first practice and had to roll out our backup car," said Duno. "We only had a few laps in the second practice because we had a problem with the brakes in the backup car. The guys were working really hard to try to put the car together before qualifying. With no practice time, (Crew Chief) Dave used the experience that he has here to give me a good car for the race. We were running very solid and strong and wanted to finish higher; I think our car was capable of finishing stronger, but the lap that we lost with the overheating problem affected us a lot. I have to thank my Sheltra Motorsports team for a great season. It has been a lot of fun."
With a strong test session in the week prior Duno and her Sheltra Motorsports team came to Toledo with a lot of confidence - but trouble struck early on for the team as on only her second lap of the first practice session Duno's No. 63 car melted an oil line causing oil to spew out of the machine and eventually catch fire. Duno was able to exit the car safely and safety officials quickly put out the fire but the team was forced to pull out a backup car and Duno was not able to get back out on track during the first practice session.
Working feverishly to get the backup car prepared in time for the second and final 40-minute practice session, the crew was able to get Duno on track shortly after the session began. Plagued with bad luck, a brake problem on the car prevented her from making any solid practice laps. With a lot of work to do before qualifying later in the afternoon, the Sheltra Motorsports went back to work after practice to get the No. 63 ready for qualifying. Duno was supposed to be the 19th car to make a qualifying lap around the half-mile track, but with the problems on the car the team had to relinquish that spot forcing Duno to start Sunday's race from the rear of the field in the 35th position.
Cold, rainy skies forced the start of the Federated Car Care 200 to be postponed for over two hours, but ARCA officials were finally able to get the race underway shortly after 4:00 p.m. The green and yellow flags were thrown simultaneously to signal the official start of the race. Drivers were forced to maintain their positions but running under slow conditions didn't allow the cars to get enough air causing several drivers to complain about their cars overheating. Unfortunately Duno's No. 63 CITGO SUPERGARD Toyota was one of the cars fighting an overheating problem and Crew Chief Dave Leiner Jr. was forced call her down pit road on lap 39 to pull tape off the car and allow the car to cool before green flag laps were even run thereby putting Duno one lap down.
The green flag was finally thrown on lap 49, but a still damp track was the cause of several early cautions. Duno used the few early green flag laps to move from her 35th starting position to 27th before radioing to her crew on lap 68 that the car was a little loose in the turns.
On lap 77 Duno moved her way into the top-25 and she would never relinquish her position within the top 25 for the remainder of the race. A lap 122 caution allowed Duno to bring her CITGO SUPERGARD car down pit road for the second and final time of the day. Changing two right side tires, adding fuel and making a chassis adjustment to tighten up her car, the Sheltra Motorsports crew sent Duno back on her way in the 24th position.
The field went back to racing on lap 137 and Duno wasted no time moving into 23rd and reported to the crew that her car was handling better. Things got interesting for Duno on lap 143 as another car spun right in front of her, but with a quick reaction she avoided the spinning car and moved into 22nd place.
With only 52 laps remaining, the field restarted but several more cautions slowed the drivers through the final laps of the race. Duno was able to use the short green flag runs to negotiate her way through traffic, climbing her way to the 18th position by the time the final checkered flag flew on the 2011 ARCA Racing Series Season.
With a gain of 17 positions from her 35th starting position, Duno was the biggest mover of the race passing more cars and gaining more positions than any other driver in the 35-car field.
"I am very happy with Milka and the efforts of the Sheltra Motorsports crew this weekend," said Crew Chief Dave Leiner Jr. "There was no harder working team than our 63 team this weekend. Milka really had very limited track time in practice and did such a great job to get the finish we did today. I can't say enough for how much she has improved this season. She has done a great job and it has been a pleasure to have her with us this season. I am very proud of her and the hard work she and the entire Sheltra Motorsports team has put into the 2011 season."