After struggling for half a season with a suspension setup that didn't seem to work, crew
In between the two weekends, they tested at a short track south of Seattle, where Chuck Carruthers, the crew chief, decided to abandon the soft-spring, big-bar setup used by many teams for a more conventional suspension.
"As soon as we swapped to the conventional setup, we dropped three-tenths of a second," said Carruthers.
"I know other teams are using the soft springs, but we just can't find the key to making them work," he said.
His decision reflects one of racing's long-standing truisms: When nothing seems to work right, go back to the basics and begin building from there.
At Roseburg, Carruthers went into his notebook and pulled out the same setup he used on Austin Cameron's car when he won the race there four years earlier.
Initially, it got mixed reviews.
Warn's car responded reasonably well to the changes and by midway through the second practice session, the crew declared his car ready to race.
Meanwhile, Jefferson continued to struggle on the track with a car that just wouldn't respond. With only minutes to go before the practice session ended, the last change gave the driver what he needed.
"At least we have some adjustability," said Gary Mears, who oversees Jefferson's car. "At Irwindale, we didn't have any. Here we have something we can work with during the race."
And work they did.
Jefferson qualified a disappointing 15th, but took advantage of every yellow flag early in the race to dive into the pits for more tweaking.
The car got progressively better, and by Lap 100 he began working his way through the field, able to take advantage of opportunities on both the inside and outside. It was the Jeff Jefferson his fans expected to see on a short track.
But he knew it couldn't last.
"Temperature's at 260 and oil pressure is getting really low," he radioed to his crew during a caution flag.
At that point, there's nothing you can do but run it 'til it breaks, hoping the engine makes it to the end.
When the green flag dropped, Jefferson nailed the throttle and less than a lap later the engine exploded, shooting flames out from under the chassis.
Warn's night was going much better.
The young driver raced mid-pack for much of the evening, falling back only when he had to make a quick stop into the pits to have the crew change a flat tire. He was in and out and never went a lap down.
"It was awesome work by the crew," he said. "They saved this race."
His car worked well on the inside groove, even when other drivers were having a hard time holding the low line. As cars dropped out with crash damage or mechanical problems, he got a bit more racing room and never put a wheel wrong all night long, finishing eighth.
It was his second Top 10 finish of the season and moved him to 11th in the points overall.
Warn's strong run helped salve Jefferson's continuing misfortune.
"I don't know what I need to do," Jefferson said as the crew loaded up. "It seems like I can't buy a break. I've never had a season like this."