Ridling teams with Yellow Freight, Skinner for `99 By Shawn A. Akers
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 8, 1998) Dave Ridling is returning to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division as a team owner in 1999, and he'll certainly have a lot of firepower behind him.
Emerald Performance Group, co-owned by Ridling, announced Sunday that he will field a team for at least 20 NASCAR Busch Series next season and in the year 2000, with Yellow Freight System as his sponsor and Mike Skinner as his driver.
The deal is for two years, with Skinner driving at least 12 of the 20 races in 1999. Ridling said he's currently interviewing drivers to put in the seat of the No. 19 Chevrolet for the remaining eight races, a list that includes Skinner's son, Jamie.
Financial problems forced Ridling to get out of the sport nearly a half year ago. He had found some success in past seasons with Kevin Lepage as his driver, including a victory in the season finale at Homestead, Fla., in 1996.
Sponsor trouble, however, put Ridling in a bad position, and he finally decided to take a hiatus from racing earlier this year.
"We struggled a little last year and the beginning of this year with some other problems, and we felt like we needed to back away from the deal and take some time off and regroup and get re-energized," Ridling said. "The only thing I've ever wanted to do was to come up here and win races. I didn't come up here to ride and endure the things that we have.
"It (dropping out of the sport) was the toughest thing I've ever done. I could have always gone home and sold fertilizer and gone back to my business and had it real easy and had a comfortable life. My wife and I took about six months off, spent some time with the family and regrouped. We thought a lot about what we wanted to do. We came to the realization that we want to be in NASCAR, but we want to win races. We want to be a contender every week. By doing what we did, backing up and then going full steam ahead, we're excited."
Ridling said he's learned from past mistakes about how to run a race team, and he won't make those mistakes again.
"There's no teacher like the past," Ridling said. "We've done things a lot on the handshake, and we're not doing that any more. These people (Yellow Freight) are straightforward and we're really excited about them. No mistakes this year. We think we've got the program to take Team Yellow and Mike to victory lane several times next year. That's what we're after. We're going to win races."
The driver of the No. 31 Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing, Skinner has never driven a race competitively in the NASCAR Busch Series. Skinner said Childress had no qualms with him racing for Ridling.
"This is a pretty neat opportunity for me," Skinner said. "I've been talking to these guys for a couple of months now, and the first thing I did was go and talk to Richard Childress. I told Richard I had an opportunity to go run some Busch races next year, and the first thing Richard asked me was who it was for. I told him who it was and the type of cars that they have. I didn't need to tell him any more. He'd already knew that they had put top cars on the track before and they had a lot of success with some drivers before. He told me to go for it.
"It's a great opportunity to be involved with a company like Yellow. We're going to run some race tracks that the 31 team might have struggled a bit on. So I think it will strengthen both teams. I think we can compliment each other."
Skinner knows how to win. He's the second-winningest driver all-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with 16 career wins. He won the very first series championship in 1995.
Ridling said the team expects to make an announcement on a crew chief sometime in the near future.
Yellow Freight had previously sponsored Tony Raines in a limited schedule in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1998. They are the co-sponsor on Raines' No. 19 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Team Yellow Racing will make its debut at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham on Feb. 20, 1999.
Source: NASCAR Online