Philips Racing Team never lost sight of big picture at Richmond HARRISBURG, N.C. (May 17, 1999) - There were a lot of things that happened Saturday at Richmond International Raceway that the Philips Racing Team would rather forget. But, one ...
Philips Racing Team never lost sight of big picture at Richmond
HARRISBURG, N.C. (May 17, 1999) - There were a lot of things that happened Saturday at Richmond International Raceway that the Philips Racing Team would rather forget. But, one thing that the team and driver Michael Waltrip refused to lose sight of was the fact that no matter how bad things are, they can always get better.
Mother Nature provided the first piece of frustration on Friday when rained washed out most of the track activity, and postponed qualifying to Saturday afternoon. At that point, things went from bad to worse for the team, as the back end of Waltrip's car came around and smacked the wall on his second qualifying lap. The car sustained enough damage to force the back-up car into action, just 30 minutes before "Happy Hour," and six hours before the start of the Pontiac Excitement 400.
During that stretch, the team handled two days worth of work to prepare for the 11th round of the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup season. First, they removed the engine from the wrecked primary car. Then, they turned to the back-up, applying it with Saturday night's race set-up. When that was finished, Waltrip climbed in for about 40 minutes of practice. With about four hours remaining until the green flag, the team performed its second engine change of the weekend, and then moved on to its regular pre-race preparations. At 7:17 p.m., the car was pushed from the garage to inspection, ready to race.
With all that behind them, the team still had 400 laps to go. What was to have been a 38th starting position turned into 43rd following the move to the back-up car. As if starting dead last wasn't bad enough, the night continued just like the day 35 laps into the race when Waltrip sustained a cut right front tire. He made it to pit road with no other damage, but lost two laps under green, only adding to the frustration for driver and crew.
But with 460 laps to go, the team refused to give up, knowing that their revised goal was to make the most of a bad situation. And that they did. With Waltrip providing feedback from the cockpit, the team worked with the car, improving it with every stop. As the race wore on, lap times quickened, which kept Waltrip from losing more laps to the leaders. With attrition proving to be a factor among many of the front-runners, Waltrip steadily ascended through the rundown, eventually racing to a respectable 22nd place finish.
"Some days are diamonds, and some aren't," said Waltrip. "This was a pretty lousy day, all the way around. But, I really appreciate the attitude of the guys on this team. They never quit. It's very important to get everything you can on a day like this, and we did that. This type of effort will pay off for us in the long run."
Saturday's effort already returned some dividends, as Waltrip moved up one spot in the point standings to 14th. This week, the team is preparing for The Winston at Lowes' Motor Speedway in Charlotte, and will then return to points racing action the following Sunday with the running of the Coca Cola 600.