CONCORD, NC - Sunday's race at the Rockingham Speedway turned out to be better for Max Gresham than he expected, even when it was as difficult as he feared and as challenging as he anticipated.
The 19 year-old driver from Milner, Ga., rallied from a one-lap deficit in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock, to finish 16th in his No. 8 Made In USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet.
"We knew this was going to be one of our most-challenging tracks on the schedule," Gresham said. "It's difficult to find a solid setup that doesn't chew the tires off the truck. This Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) team really worked hard at trying to find that balance. Even though a 16th-place finish wasn't what we wanted, it was better than we expected."
Gresham started 15th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at the one-mile tri-oval that's been a traditional stop on the NASCAR schedule. Gresham had the benefit of having truck owner Eddie Sharp as his spotter atop the grandstands, which paid big benefits for the young team.
"Eddie talked me through new ways to approach this track," Gresham said. "He told me where guys were making up time and where I was making up ground. His insight was invaluable. He added a perspective that helped me leave with a different understanding of this track."
Like most of the field, Gresham fought with the handling of his truck during the early stages of the race. Sharp reminded the young driver to concentrate on racing the track, and not other competitors.
Even after Gresham went a lap down with 49 laps into the event, Eddie Sharp remained confident. "I told him to keep running his race," Sharp said.
Gresham got back on the lead lap with 19 laps to go. He maintained this focus and finished a season-best 16th and a career-best at Rockingham Speedway.
"Any driver wants to finish as high as possible, but 16th was a positive step for our race team," Gresham said. "We knew this was going to be a difficult track for us after the test session a month ago, but I think we made huge gains during the race. I'm confident about the potential we have in the future."
What's ahead next is the SFP 250 April 20 at the Kansas Speedway.
"We knew Rockingham was a big challenge for this race team," crew chief Chris Showalter said. "We came home with a lead-lap finish and a truck that only a few marks and a doughnut on it."
Gresham will go to Kansas ranked 21st in the truck series standings.