McLAUGHLIN REBOUNDS FROM QUALIFYING ACCIDENT, FINISHES 16TH
DARLINGTON, SC - "The Track to Tough to Tame" reared its ugly head on Friday afternoon when Goulds Pumps driver Mike McLaughlin attempted his qualifying lap. McLaughlin, the pole sitter for the Fall 1998 race at Darlington Raceway, crashed during his first of two qualifying laps on Friday afternoon as his car simply "got away" from him. After a brief visit to the infield care center, the Waterloo, NY native returned to his garage to find his veteran team preparing his backup #34 machine. With speedy work, the car was ready for happy hour practice.
The Jay Smith led crew worked hard to find the proper setup for the backup car in the final hour of practice. Surprisingly, the back up car was up to speed in no time, leaving McLaughlin and the Goulds Pumps crew relieved and ready for Saturday's Diamond Hill Plywood 200.
With the wreck in qualifying, McLaughlin was forced to take his first provisional starting spot of the year, leaving him in 37th position for the start of the race. McLaughlin knew his work would be tough, fighting through the traffic at Darlington can be tougher than at any other track on the circuit.
As the race began, McLaughlin quickly began to move forward. Working his way past slower traffic, McLaughlin worked his way into the top twenty-five in no time at all. With the help of one his pit crew's fastest pit stops of the year on lap 25 of 147 following a caution, McLaughlin gained 11 spots, moving into the top twenty. As the race wore on, McLaughlin's Chevrolet began to lose its handling, dropping McLaughlin back a few spots. However, with continued strong pit work by the Goulds Pumps Team, McLaughlin was able to maintain his position inside the top-twenty. With 10 laps to go McLaughlin found himself in 20th position, but with 4 lead cars in sight. One-by-one, McLaughlin worked his way past the cars to claim the 16th spot as the checkered flag waved across the field.
"Obviously, 16th wasn't our goal when we unloaded the car Friday morning, but with the accident and limited practice time on the backup car, it's not a bad afternoon for us," McLaughlin said. "The car just got out from under me during qualifying, and from that point on in the weekend we were playing catch up. We will have to move on and focus on Texas next weekend, I know the guys will give me a great car and hopefully I can reward them and Goulds Pumps with a win."
Matt Kenseth claimed the checkered flag and grabbed the Busch Grand National Points lead. With his 16th place finish, McLaughlin dropped from 3rd to 6th in the point standings, only 60 points behind Kenseth.
The NASCAR Busch Grand National Series will head to Texas Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 300 this Saturday. Racing action begins at 12:00 noon EST. CBS and Performance Racing Network will provide live coverage of the event.