Rich Bickle Darlington Preview

HARRISBURG, NC (August 30, 1999) - Every driver on NASCAR Winston Cup tour has at one time or another experienced the Darlington Stripe, a mark left on their car after an altercation with the outside retaining wall at Darlington (SC) ...

HARRISBURG, NC (August 30, 1999) - Every driver on NASCAR Winston Cup tour has at one time or another experienced the Darlington Stripe, a mark left on their car after an altercation with the outside retaining wall at Darlington (SC) Raceway. For Rich Bickle, that honor came in 1995. "I was running 14th late in the 1995 race and went to the outside to pass a couple of cars for position," said Bickle, driver of the 10-10-345 Pontiac. "Before I knew it, I had the right side of the car in the fence. Fortunately, I didn't wreck and I was able to still make the pass. Maybe that's why it's my most memorable Darlington Stripe moment. I hit real hard and was still made the pass." The famed 1.366-mile Darlington track has been creating memorable moments since it was constructed as NASCAR's first superspeedway. Sunday's 50th-annual Southern 500, the next stop on the 1999 Winston Cup tour, should be no different producing more than its share of memories. "I love racing at Darlington, but I have to say I think its the hardest track that we race at," said Bickle. "The track was built in 1950 for 1950s cars and speeds. I think the first winner averaged something like 75 miles per hour (Johnny Mantz - 76.260 mph) and last year, the winner was over 135 average (Jeff Gordon - 139.031). That's nearly double the speed on a track that hardly has changed in 50 years. It is still a single groove, narrow track where you have to run wide open right up against the wall. Your tires go away almost immediately because the track surface is so abrasive. You really have to be on your toes all day long at Darlington." Last year, Bickle started the Southern 500 at Darlington 40th and finished 19th in the Cale Yarborough-owned Ford. This time around, Bickle is looking for a better finish in the 10-10-345 Pontiac. To do that, he knows he will have to survive 367 laps on the track dubbed 'Too Tough To Tame'. "We need a good finish, that's for sure," said Bickle. "We've struggled lately and missing the races at Bristol and Indianapolis has everyone here working harder than ever. Darlington is a place where we can get things back on track. You just have to be careful there because the track can bite you any second. Turn 2, which used to be Turn 4 before they reconfigured the race track, is definitely a challenge. It narrows up pretty quick and is really sharp. The corner just squares off and you had better be ready for it. It's like someone forgot to put the grandstands in the original plans, so they just changed the track to fit them in." So, is Darlington deserving of reverence given it by Winston Cup drivers? "Absolutely," stated Bickle. "There are few tracks on the tour that are as challenging or difficult as Darlington is. You can see a lot of the history of NASCAR at Darlington. Winning there is something every Winston Cup driver dreams of."

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rich Bickle , Jeff Gordon , Cale Yarborough