BUSCH: Hickory preview

>From ANDY HALL, NASCAR PUBLIC RELATIONS April 2, 1996 NASCAR Busch Series Notes of Interest ** The smallest track on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule, Hickory (NC.) Motor Speedway, will be the site of this Saturday's Sundrop 300. The ...

>From ANDY HALL, NASCAR PUBLIC RELATIONS

April 2, 1996 NASCAR Busch Series Notes of Interest

** The smallest track on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule, Hickory (NC.) Motor Speedway, will be the site of this Saturday's Sundrop 300. The .363-mile track will be hosting its 4Oth race since the formation of the NASCAR Busch Series in 1982, by far the most races held at any speedway.

Hickory fits the definition of a "bullring" race track, and most cars still running at the end of Saturday's 300-lap race will probably bear battle scars and some crunched sheet metal.

Saturday's traditional Easter-weekend race will start at 4 p.m, (ET) and will be televised live by TNN: The Nashville Network. MRN Radio will also have live coverage.

** Although the toughness of qualifying for NASCAR Busch Series races this season hag been well-documented, Friday's single session to set the field for the Hickory event will be one of the more tense sessions of the season for race teams.

Because of the size of the track, The starting field for the race will be limited to only 30 cars, and only 26 of those will make it through time trials. NASCAR officials expect nearly 50 cars to try and make the field.

This weekend's race will not have the usual large contingent of NASCAR Winston Cup drivers who enter NASCAR Busch Series races that are held at the larger tracks.

** Predicting race winners in NASCAR Busch Series events at Hickory Motor Speedway is difficult; in the past 11 races dating back to 1990, only one driver, Tommy Houston, has managed to win twice, and there have been six consecutive different winners.

Two drivers have also demonstrated that a starting position deep in the field does not necessarily mean doom for a driver at Hickory; Houston won the 1990 version of this event from 30th starting spot, and Steve Grissom won in 1993 from 24th position.

** When NASCAR Busch Series fans think of Hickory Motor-Speedway, They think of Tommy Houston, and with good reason: the 51-year-old Hickory resident leads all active drivers with eight career wins at Hickory, and has finished in the top 10 in 28 of the 37 races he has run at his home track.

Unbelievably, however, Houston has failed to qualify for the last two NASCAR Busch Series races at the track he knows so well. He finished sixth in his last race, the 1994 Spring event.

"If I can just get in the race, I'll be okay from there," said Houston. "I still know how to race at Hickory. I won from 30th here one time (1990) in a 300-lap race, and it can still be done. You just have to be patient and take your time.

"But qualifying is the biggest obstacle," he said. "When you've got 50 cars separated by two-tenths of a second, it's really tough to make a race." ...

** Bill Ingle, a successful crew chief in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, will return to driving this weekend...

Ingle left driver Ricky Rudd's team at the end of the 1995 season in order to join Grissom at Diamond Ridge Racing with the promise that he would get to do some driving this season. His plans are uncertain, but will probably also include some NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing. Ingle has one career NASCAR Busch Series start, finishing 26th at Rockingham in October of 1987.

** QUICK NOTES: Mark Martin's win at Darlington this past weekend was his 23rd on the NASCAR Busch Series, moving him into sole possession of third place on the series all-time victory list. Only retired Jack Ingram (31 wins) and Tommy Houston (24) have more career wins on the series, which started in 1982 .... David Green has won the Busch Pole Award for three consecutive races at Hickory, including two events in 1994 and the one race held last year .... Hickory management has redone pit road at the track, creating more room and a new exit onto the track .... Randy LaJoie hero finished second twice in only three starts at Hickory. The team he is driving for won this race last year with Johnny Benson as driver ,...

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