Day 2: Race to the Sprint Cup

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Ten-year-old Douglas Ford stood outside garage 27 with his dad, Kent, patiently waiting in the 90-degree heat to meet driver Martin Truex Jr. While other teams buzzed between garage stalls and hauler trucks, the pair were content to watch the Furniture Row Racing crew ready the No. 78 World Vision car.

“It’s very fan-friendly,” Kent says as they peek into the open garage door. “How many sports let you get up close and personal?”

This is a classic picture of Cup Series American auto-racing at its best.

Douglas clutched his blue die-cast replica of Martin Truex’s former No. 56 Napa Auto Parts car. He would wait as long as he had to for Martin’s autograph.

Between practice rounds and media interviews, Martin made good on that appearance. Douglas got his autograph.

As the day goes on, the team tweaks and adjusts all aspects of Martin’s car. It must pass inspection before it can run in the qualifying rounds.

As I learned from conversations with engine tuners, general managers, racing enthusiasts, and from watching the process myself, each car, no matter the make, must literally fit the mold before it can compete.

Well, Martin and the No. 78 car World Vision team passed inspection and qualified 19th in tomorrow’s starting field of 42 drivers. World Vision Experience Hauler – Kisongo Trek

As the crew rolled the World Vision car onto the final inspection platform, “Fish” (the engine tuner) offered his thoughts on the key factors heading into Saturday night’s race.

“The motor’s gotta run all day; that’s my big deal,” he says. “You gotta have quick pit stops. Track position will be big. And the track’s so rough here that they (the drivers) won’t get close to each other, because they don’t want to wreck. They’ll just bounce everywhere. Just getting the car to happen is a big deal. You go from the hot of the day to the cool of the night; the track changes. It’s a lot to put into it to cover all the bases.”

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