TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 28, 2003) -- When Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was five laps old, Mike Skinner told himself, "We can win this race -- this is one great racecar." For the first 50 laps it was evident by the performance...
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 28, 2003) -- When Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was five laps old, Mike Skinner told himself, "We can win this race -- this is one great racecar."
For the first 50 laps it was evident by the performance of the USG Sheetrock Brand Pontiac that Skinner did indeed have the machine to contend and win on the 2.66-mile tri-oval. But two pit road incidents within 35 laps of each other deflated the team's optimism and the end result was a 27th-place finish.
Skinner started the 188-lap race 28th and in a short time he was running with the leaders and got himself as high as fourth.
But on lap 50 when he entered pit road to get two tires and fuel, the brakes locked and the front tires skidded hard. Not knowing the damage to the tires, the incident forced crew chief Ryan Pemberton to change plans and call for four tires.
Though it was the right and safe decision, it proved to be costly. With the majority of the teams taking two tires, the extra time it took to put on four tires caused Skinner to lose the draft and fall way behind.
"I blame myself more than anybody else," said Skinner, who is subbing for the injured Jerry Nadeau. "I never drove a superspeedway car for this team before and the brake setup was a little different than I was accustomed to. When I entered pit road the front brakes locked up. The car wouldn't stop and the tires slid and slid.
"We had to take four tires while everybody else took two. That cost us to lose the draft and it went downhill from there. We were hoping for a caution, but it never came."
Skinner encountered another problem on the next pit stop, which came on lapx5. When he exited his pit stall, he made contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr's car. Thatforced Skinner to return to the pits to repair the left front fender.
Despite falling two laps down due to the pit road incidents, Skinner was running lap times equivalent to the leaders when he got back in the lead draft.
"That was so frustrating," explained Skinner. "Here I was sitting in an awesome racecar and no chance to win. It was sickening."
Another proof of how fast the USG Sheetrock Brand Pontiac was, when the race was red flagged with six laps remaining, a number of teams approached the team's spotter -- Roman Pemberton -- and asked for Skinner to draft with their car.
"I guess that's the best testimonial on how good the USG Sheetrock Brand Pontiac was today," said Skinner.
In Saturday's Food World 300 ARCA race, Boris Said, driving the No. 99 USG Sheetrock Brand Pontiac, was collected in an accident on lap 68. His finishing position was 24th.
"Up until the accident it was great," offered Said. "The USG Sheetrock Brand Pontiac could get to the front and pass -- it was just awesome. All of a sudden I looked up and there was a car dead sideways in the middle of the track. I had nowhere to go and I just crashed -- two or three cars hit me and I then hit the wall. That was a lot of hard licks I took, but it was still a great experience. I wish I could do this every weekend -- it was a riot."