Emperor Skinner does it again By Brett Borden MOTEGI CITY, Japan (Nov. 21, 1998) Mike Skinner held off Jeff Gordon by the skin of his teeth to win the NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi - Coca-Cola 500 at Twin Ring Motegi, but don't tell that to...
Emperor Skinner does it again By Brett Borden
MOTEGI CITY, Japan (Nov. 21, 1998) Mike Skinner held off Jeff Gordon by the skin of his teeth to win the NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi - Coca-Cola 500 at Twin Ring Motegi, but don't tell that to the Japanese people. To them, Mike Skinner is Jeff Gordon.
While Gordon had a dominant year in the North American part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule, Skinner has got the Asian portion covered. In America, Skinner is 0-for-61 in series competition. In Japan, he's two for two. Even if they are exhibition races, he's won on a road course, and he's won on an oval. He'd probably win on a Figure 8 if they had one.
"I'd like to come back to Motegi and run the road course," Skinner said.
The road to Victory Lane on the oval course didn't come without it's twists and turns. All day long it was a game of two steps forward, then one step back for Skinner.
"Our car was very, very good when we would put tires on it, and just go," Skinner said. "But if we had a caution, it seems like after that our car was very, very bad."
The No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet's split personality became an issue when caution came out with 11 laps remaining due to an accident involving Brendan Gaughan and Bobby Hamilton. The green flag came out with five laps to go, giving the pack its chance to sneak up on Skinner.
"That (caution) saved us," Gordon said. "We really didn't have anything for Mike or Jeff Burton, and it looked like Jeff was even closing on Skinner before that caution. I just kind of went for it there at the end. I got by Burton and once I got up to Mike, I really didn't think I had anything for him."
Skinner knew better. Gordon has run down a whole list of drivers this year that he had nothing for early in the race. When the last green flag flew, Skinner knew it would be all he could do to hold off the North American champion.
"I tell you what, a couple more laps and he might have got us," Skinner said. "But Jeff Gordon raced us clean, and we kept our car at the bottom of the race track, and that last lap was an awful long lap. That was probably the longest lap of the day.
"He had an awesome engine in his car. We had a good engine in our car, but we used a lot of motor up before the race even started and that thing's probably got it's tongue hanging out."
Hanging out up front all day with Skinner and Gordon were Jeremy Mayfield and Burton. Burton had looked like he had the only car to stop Skinner's, but the No. 99 Bruce Lee Ford's chances kicked the bucket when it started falling off the pace the last five laps.
There to take third was Mayfield, who was more than happy with show honors despite starting on the pole.
"Overall we're really happy with the way things went," Mayfield said. "We had an enjoyable trip here in Japan."
So now the drivers and their teams head back to America. One of them in particular probably wishes he could stay at least a little while. After all, Emperor Skinner can't lose on this side of the Pacific.
Source: NASCAR Online