CONCORD, NC - As one of a few teen-aged drivers in last Saturday's SFP 250 at the Kansas Speedway, Max Gresham knows experience and respect will not come easily. That was a lesson delivered the hard way in a 25th-place finish.
Gresham, 19, tied his career-best by qualifying ninth for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race. He fell back to 25th following a collision on pit road, but he rallied back to be in the top five on Lap 95.
The comeback ended seven laps later when his No. 8 Made In USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet Silverado was forced into the outside wall by a ten-year veteran of the series.
"We battled back from some early issues on pit road to be a contender," Gresham said. "To have it end that way was really disappointing. When you're young you try to give everyone around you a lot of respect. I guess you can't always earn respect; you have to demand it."
Despite the finish, Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) left Kansas with a sense of accomplishment. Gresham was fourth-fastest in the first of two practice sessions, and he was eighth in final session.
His truck sustained damage to the right-front fender on the first pit stop of the day when he collided with Tim George Jr. on pit road. The team made two additional pit stops during caution period (laps15 - 19) to make repairs.
"I'm just fighting them (other competitors)," Gresham reported during in-car communication with his team. "We still have a lot more speed than these other guys."
After recovering from the incident on pit road, the Milner, Ga., native put his red, white and blue machine comfortably in the top 20. Throughout the early part of the day the team used cautions to continue to work on the damaged fender.
As green flag pit stops started around Lap 70, Showalter's strategy to gain track position with fuel mileage paid off with a lucky break. Just before making his green flag pit stop the yellow flag waved and Gresham was able to pit under caution gaining valuable track position.
"This race team faced a lot of adversity, but we bounced back to be a contender," said Showalter. "In the long run, that's something that will help us. We may be upset by the way things ended, bringing home a wrecked truck, but we came here ready to race. That's something we'll remember most from the weekend."
On Lap 98 another competitor ran Gresham up the track to make contact with the wall, which drew no caution flag for the incident. He brought his battered No.8 Chevrolet to pit road before taking it behind the wall.
Gresham finished 25th while only completing 99 laps.
Nonetheless, Gresham moved up two spots in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings. He's 19th heading into his next race, the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 17.
"We've got time to get over what happened at Kansas," Gresham said. "It was fun to have a fast truck and to race up front. It's a lesson every young driver has to learn -- who you can race with and who you can't. I've also learned that from now on we won't simply ask for respect; we will demand it."