Daytona Beach, Fla. -- Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet, gained some valuable experience in the Hershey Kissables 300 at the Daytona International Speedway, his first restrictor-plate start. However it may have been his lack of experience that kept him from garnering a sure top-ten finish.
Rich Hubbs and Derek Jones, co-crew chiefs on the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet out of the JR (pronounced Junior) Motorsports camp, executed a flawless game plan and had the 28-year-old Winchester, Va. native running in the top-five with 18 laps to go. Team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., McFarland's only "teammate" in the race, was leading and could offer no assistance to his young protege and as a result, McFarland was shuffled back to the 20th position as no one wanted to draft with a strong Navy Monte Carlo.
McFarland took the checkered flag amidst a throng of wildly spinning cars in the 22nd position and while everyone on the crew was content with their solid finish and fairly unscathed car, they know that with a little help, it could have been a better start to their 2006 campaign.
"I know that you have to earn your friends out here," said McFarland. "I'm cool with that. I just hope today's race was a good start toward establishing my credibility on these tracks."
McFarland qualified his Navy Chevy solidly in the 25th position, but in some regards that was a catch-22. The Navy team has no points to fall back on for the first five races, so Hubbs set the car up to make sure it got in the show. As with many of the NASCAR Busch Series races this season, the cars were impounded after qualifying so no setup changes could be made until the drop of the green flag. As a result, the car was not to McFarland liking in the early going.
A race-record 10 caution flags gave the team ample opportunity to make the necessary changes to get the car comfortable for McFarland.
"The car was so tight, especially during the first 30 laps," sounded McFarland. "But the crew threw just about every type of chassis adjustment at it and it kept coming around as the race went on." The crew chiefs' game plan to let the race come to his driver, coupled with some great pit stops by the JR Motorsports team, began to pay dividends in the second half of the race as the No. 88 began to creep up the scoring pylon. On lap 93, McFarland was running in the 3rd position and remained in the top-five for 10 laps until he began to get shuffled back.
A brush with the outside wall caused McFarland to bring the Navy Chevy in on the lap 107 caution for service. A loose lug nut on that stop forced him to bring the car back down pit road for a stop-and-go penalty, but another caution on lap 111 allowed McFarland to catch up to the rest of the field. He restarted the race on lap 115 in the 27th position and was able to pick up five more spots before the checkered fell.
Tony Stewart took the winner's trophy and he was followed to the line by Burney Lamar, Clint Bowyer, Jon Wood and Kevin Harvick.
The NASCAR Busch Series will head to Fontana, Ca. and the California Speedway this Saturday for the Stater Bros. 300. The race will be televised on FX and will be broadcast on MRN.
"I learned so much today, I need some time to sit and store it all before we get to Talladega. But we didn't tear up our good car so we should be in better shape than most when we get to Talladega."
"It was fun to be in position to have a good finish, but the veterans saw the yellow stripe and decided to go elsewhere. I know you have to earn your friends out here. I'm cool with that. I just hope today's race was a good start toward establishing my credibility on these tracks."
"The car was so tight, especially during the first 30 laps. But the crew threw just about every type of chassis adjustment at it and it kept coming around as the race went on."
"I really want to thank Michael Waltrip and the No. 99 crew. He helped me out so much today and I can only hope that I helped him some too."
Rich Hubbs' Quotes
"We knew we would not get much help at the end, but that is just the way it goes for rookies. I just didn't think it would be that bad, but hopefully he made some friends for the future."
"The car is in one piece and we got a solid top-25. That is in line with what our intentions were for this race."
Derek Jones' Quotes
"We finished every lap and the car is in one piece. All of our practice runs were in qualifying trim, so to run as competitively as we did is a solid start to our season. Everyone on the team got race day practice and we will be better at California because of it.