Strong run turns sour for GNC Live Well Racing team.
PHOENIX (Nov. 9) -- Driver Hank Parker Jr. and the GNC Live Well Racing team knew they had a strong car in Saturday's Bashas' 200 NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) event at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).
After starting from the 25th position, the crew watched Parker muscle his No. 36 Dodge Intrepid into the top-10 by lap 132 of the 200-lap event. The team seemed poised to score its eighth top-10 finish of the 2002 NBS season, but those hopes were dashed when Parker made contact with Kevin Harvick on lap 140.
With Parker in ninth position and Harvick in eighth, the two drivers battled side-by-side as they headed into turn one of the one-mile oval. With Parker occupying the inside line, the nose of his machine was even with the door numbers on Harvick's car as they entered the turn. The two cars made contact, sending both machines sliding into the outside retaining wall. While Parker was able to return to the race, Harvick's car was too damaged to continue. Parker finished the event in 27th position, three laps down to race-winner Scott Wimmer.
"If I had it to do over again, I'd be more patient," Parker said of the incident. "My car was faster than (Harvick's), and it was just a matter of time before I would have gotten by him. He had given me a lot more room in turns three and four, but was really squeezing me as we went into turn one. I drove off into the turn a little too deep and locked up my brakes a little, and I wiggled just a touch. He was so close on my outside, that little wiggle is all it took for me to get into him.
"I'm sure he's blaming me, but we're both guilty of not giving a little more in that deal," Parker said. "I should have been more patient, and he should have given me more room. Somebody said he made some comments about me in his interview that weren't too nice. That's OK, though. I'm not going to lose any sleep over his opinion of me."
After the incident, Parker was forced to pit to allow his team to pull the damaged sheet metal away from the tires on the No. 36 Dodge. Upon further inspection, the crew determined that Parker had flat-spotted his tires during the wreck, and the team debated bringing him back to pit road to put on fresh tires.
Crew chief Gary Cogswell told Parker that they would have to wait until the race returned to green flag conditions before they brought him in for fresh tires. Under NASCAR rules, teams were only allowed two new sets of tires under caution during the PIR event. The GNC team had already used its allotment, which meant that, if they put fresh tires on the car under caution, they would be assessed a one-lap penalty for each new tire they bolted on. Cogswell determined that it would be less costly, in terms of track position, if Parker came to pit road under the green flag.
As soon as the leader took the green flag, Parker came in for service, where his team put new right side tires on his car. Returning to the track for several laps, Parker told his crew that it still felt like his tires were flat-spotted. The team came back in and changed the left front tire to fix the problem and sent Parker back out. From there, Parker continued to make laps, but moved aside at times to allow lead lap cars to continue unhindered.
After the event, a visibly dejected Parker summed up the day.
"We had a great car today," Parker said. "It was definitely a top-five car. I'm very sorry that we didn't get the finish we deserved today. Today was a learning experience for me. It taught me a lesson about patience. If I can take anything positive out of what happened today, it's that I'm a smarter racecar driver because of it.
"I want to thank Gary (Cogswell) and the team for working so hard on the car this weekend. I'm ready to move on to Homestead (Speedway) and finish this season on a high note for this team."
Next up for the GNC Live Well Racing team is the final event of the 2002 NBS season, the Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. That race will air live on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 1:30 p.m. EST on NBC and MRN (Motor Racing Network) affiliates.