Irwin taking life lessons into '99 season By Shawn A. Akers HARRISBURG, N.C. (Jan. 25, 1999) The 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup season wasn't just a lesson in racing for Kenny Irwin. It was a good, hard lesson in life as well. And not only has...
Irwin taking life lessons into '99 season By Shawn A. Akers
HARRISBURG, N.C. (Jan. 25, 1999) The 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup season wasn't just a lesson in racing for Kenny Irwin. It was a good, hard lesson in life as well. And not only has the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year vowed not to make the same mistakes he made on the race track a year ago, but he's also promised himself be a better person off the track, too. Irwin said his "inexperience" at the NASCAR Winston Cup level -- learning how to handle life in the racing limelight -- sometimes landed him in bad positions. He claims that he's a bit more savvy now and will use better judgement both on and off the track. "There were times last year when I'd say things maybe I shouldn't have, or done things I shouldn't have, and all of that is just plain and simple inexperience," said the driver of Robert Yates' No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus. "You live and learn. That's what life is all about. "It's just like going and running a race. If you don't get something out of it, then you've kinda wasted everybody's time. I don't want to waste my time or Robert Yates' time. I think I learned some very good lessons last year, and I think that definitely makes you stronger and it makes you harder. I think I'm going to be a lot more ready for things this year." Irwin's behavior off the track sometimes drew the ire of his team owner, who, at times, admonished him publicly for it. But then that has helped Irwin understand his team role better and he said his attitude is all the better for it heading into 1999. "Whatever it takes for me to stay in Winston Cup racing, that's what I want to do," Irwin said. "Because this is where I want to stay. It makes you see what you have to do and what you can't do. "It (Yates' remarks about him) was very tough. I don't know where a lot of it came from, but it was just tough to get through. If this is where you want to be, then you have to go through that, I guess. Hopefully it will make me a better person and a driver. Hopefully I did learn a lot, only time will tell if I did or didn't, and those situations won't come up again." On the race track, Irwin said he experienced the typical "growing pains" of a rookie in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Anxiety, at times during the 1998 campaign, was his best friend, and Irwin said it caused him to make bad, split-second decisions that got him into trouble. Qualifying wasn't so much of a problem for Irwin a year ago. Avoiding accidents, however, was at times, and Irwin wound up finishing 35th or worse a whopping 10 times in 1998. Five of his eight DNFs were due to accidents. With a year's experience under his belt now, however, Irwin said he'll be a bit more patient on the race track now, and he'll listen more attentively to advice from his peers. "I probably took too many chances at the wrong times," said Irwin, who had only one year of previous NASCAR experience prior to last season (he won the 1997 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Cintas Rookie of the Year award). "The biggest thing I want to get better at is setting up the chassis, then I won't have to take those type of chances. When the car is good, then you take a lot less chances." Irwin said he is adamant about his goals for the upcoming season. "I really feel like we can finish in the top-10 in the points," Irwin said. "That's what I want to do, to be back in New York again and up on stage, and I think we can do it. Last year I got myself in a position where I shouldn't have been a lot of times. If that stuff happens again this year, then hopefully I'm going to be a lot smarter in those situations."
Source: NASCAR Online