Beating Around the Busch: Chapter five, Texas
By: Thomas Chemris
NASCAR continues to crack down on "gray area" parts, as Joe Nemechek's race winning Chevy was found to have a spacing problem with the coils of the left front spring. NASCAR indicated that it would not impact the race outcome, but looks for fines to be on the way.
The crash filled Texas event took it's toll on many teams.
Ashton Lewis continues his run of bad luck, once again being caught up in contact. "I just can't believe that something like this happened to us again. I really thought we were going to have a strong finish here. I hate that so many cars got wrecked so close to the end, but I'm glad everyone is OK", said Lewis. The team has struggled in the first six events with no finish higher than sixteenth.
Tempers were flaring as many points contenders saw their day dramatically effected by contact filled event.
Bobby Hamilton Jr lost eight positions in championship standings after crashing out on lap thirty-one. An angry Hamilton blamed under financed teams for the problem. "The seventy nine car got up and just pushed and turned and turned me. I corrected it and just got up there and hit the wall. It's ridiculous. I know they have a low car count, but to let these guys run the way they are, You're going to get somebody killed". It's the seventy nines fault. I guarantee that he is on the same old tires that he has been practicing on all weekend."
Coy Gibbs, who was looking at a career best Busch finish, was upset after he was involved in the late race pile up. "I heard, that it was the same guy that wrecks everybody wrecked Mike Bliss. I just got knocked around in there and then luckily we could finish. We were decent and I was hoping to hold on to a top-five. That was my goal. We didn't have a great car. We worked on it and got a good car. We have to be happy with our first career top ten".
Gibbs who was leading the Rookie Of the Year Standings lost a position to the Texas top-finishing rookie Chad Blount.
Blount, who dodged bullets all day, was ecstatic with the results. "I just can't say enough about these guys here. They worked their butts off here today. This APP Dodge was really good. This is a big turnaround from last week and hopefully we'll keep the car up front all year long. That's a great run for these guys. I can't say enough about these guys. They worked their butts off today. This is the right step. The race team is kind of struggling a little bit but heck; we're a beginner team. And how about that Dodge with Ernie Elliott power? We built a brand new race car to come here and I can't say enough about the guys. I feel like we've really turned our program around in the last week."
Jimmy Spencer, who finished sixth, again engages in a last minute deal to make the field. This time with Fitz Bradshaw Racing, fielding the number eighty-two Jani King car. The team was arrived at Texas with an unfinished car, getting only a few laps of practice in prior to qualifying seventeenth. Spencer, who had announced he would field his own team, has been making last minute race deals with various teams to get in the Busch competition.
Spencer was a teammate to Kerry Earnhardt.
Earnhardt attempted to qualify for the Cup event with his Fitz Bradshaw team.
"I've been through a lot of ups and downs since I started racing and I'm finally where I want to be," Earnhardt said. "I didn't start off racing like a lot of these guys did. I struggled a little bit more to get here. But I wouldn't change anything and I think the things I've gone through have made me a better person and a better competitor." Noted Earnhardt, who failed in his attempt to make the Cup event.
Andy Belmont, who crashed his primary car started on a provisional, and only made eight laps before heading to the garage with a broken rear end. Belmont ran a tribute to baseball legend Tug McGraw. "He's the kind of guy who helped build popularity for baseball at a time when baseball was dragging a little with the fans," Belmont said. "He was great with kids and great with adults. I don't know if Tug McGraw was ever at a race in his life but, at heart, I have to believe he is a racer. He is the type of person every professional athlete should aspire to be."
In other news around the series, team Amik made it official that it has acquired the services of 2001 Busch Champion Crew Chief Harold Holly. Holly, who left ppc Racing to join with Mike McLaughlin and Angela Motorsports, was left unemployed as the team folded prior to the seasons opening race. Twenty-five year old NASCAR "Young Gun" Lyndon Amick will drive the number thirty-two Chevy Monte Carlo for the planned partial season. Amick, while young, isn't inexperienced. Winner of the 1996 NASCAR Goody's Dash Series Championship, Amick has competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Busch Series.
Mike McLaughlin, who has been without a ride has signed on with the newly formed Cicci/Kelly race team and will attempt to qualify for next weeks race in Talladega.
Herzog Jackson continues to run without a sponsor, and in what appears to be a week-to-week decision has committed to run Talladega.
"This team has been consistent all season," stated Bodine. "My crew has been the reason that we have finished as high as we have. Each week they have brought a car that has been able to run at the front of the pack, which makes my job a whole lot easier.