Jeff Jefferson encourages...
Jeff Jefferson encourages Mike Gallegos to let him pass on the Roseburg oval. He didn't take the hint and Jefferson was cautioned by NASCAR to stop playing bumper tag. Photo by Jerry F. Boone
One destroyed road course car.
One damaged speedway car.
Three potential Top 10 finishes victimized by misfortune.
This hasn't been the dream season Jeff Jefferson was hoping to have.
"I think anyone outside of the Top 5 in points can probably say the same thing," said Mike Warn, who co-owns MJ2 Racing with his wife, Cindi. "No one gets into racing hoping for the problems we've had."
Six months ago Warn was hoping Jefferson could be in contention for the season championship and that his son, Jim Warn, may have a shot of the Rookie of the Year title.
Halfway through the NASCAR Camping World West season, most of those hopes have disappeared in twisted sheetmetal.
"We're frustrated, but not discouraged," said Dustin Gerlach, one of the crewmembers who burns through his vacation days to volunteer on the team.
"The reward is knowing we come here and do our best," he said. "There are some things you can't control."
That doesn't mean they are happy with the results.
"I'm pretty miserable on Monday if we've had a bad weekend," said Jefferson, who is a three-time champion in the former NASCAR Northwest Tour. "But by Tuesday or so we've begun to work toward the next race.
"By the time we get to the track, I can't wait to get in the car again. I've never shown up at a race that I didn't want to get out there and do my best."
The team has shown improvement over the first half of the season. Jim Warn has had some solid finishes and, as the season entered the second half, was a dozen points out of the Top 10. Most of Jefferson's problems have occurred while he was running within the lead group.
"People try to console me with the fact we've had some good runs," said Chuck Carruthers, who oversees both teams and is crew chief on Warn's car. "But most of the wrecks occur in the top six or seven cars; that's where the action gets really heavy. We need to do better than that.
"We've built our own equipment and now we must solve our own problems."
The front of the field has been dominated by teams from Bill McAnally Racing, which seem to have the franchise on the checkered flag this season. At most races, there has been BMR out front, and the rest of the field trying to keep up.
McAnally said he's surprised Carruthers has struggled so much this season. "Chuck and I have worked together and I know how good he is," he said. "I'm sure he'll figure it out."
And that's what keeps guys like Gerlach coming back week after week.
"We've got a lot of faith in Chuck," he said.
"We're not giving up," said Gary Mears, Jefferson's crew chief. "There may be teams that are smarter than us or have more experience than us, but no one outworks us."
Mike Warn, the man buying the cars, engines, tires, and paying the motel bills, figures things will turn around.
"Right now we're having a lot of bad luck," he said. "But the most important thing about luck is, it will change."