BUSCH: Charlotte: Mike Bliss - NASCAR spotlight

Bliss hoping to turn season around at Charlotte DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 26, 2004) -- Mike Bliss (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) is bound to be looking forward to Saturday's CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway because last ...

Bliss hoping to turn season around at Charlotte

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 26, 2004) -- Mike Bliss (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) is bound to be looking forward to Saturday's CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway because last year, he was as close to a sure thing as there was in the NASCAR Busch Series at the track.

Bliss was the only driver with top-five finishes in both races last year at Charlotte, finishing fifth last May, then third in the track's fall event. After a tough start to the 2004 season, in which his two best finishes are a couple of eighth-place showings, Bliss and the rest of his Joe Gibbs Racing team are no doubt hoping Charlotte will give them some positive momentum for the rest of the year.

"Charlotte was a really good track to us in 2003, and may be the place to help us get our season back on track," Bliss says. "We tested here last week, and we learned a lot about this new tire and the direction we need to go to get better. The team is extremely focused and determined. Steve [Addington, crew chief] and I are continuing to work better each week. When we get this thing turned around, look out."

Bliss doesn't necessarily buy into the "cookie-cutter" criticism leveled against Lowe's and its sister facilities at Atlanta and Texas Motor Speedways. Charlotte has its own unique characteristics that make it as challenging as any other track on the circuit.

"A lot of people compare Charlotte to the other mile-and-a-half tracks we visit," Bliss continues. "Charlotte seems to have its own personality, though. The track is wider and the corners offer multiple grooves. If the car's handling is not there, it gives the drivers the chance to play with their line and find a groove that works for them. Charlotte is definitely a lot bumpier than those other two, especially on the backstretch on over to the tunnel on Turn 4." For Addington, the participation of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars in the NASCAR Busch Series race makes his job, shall we say, a little more interesting. But at the same time, he also has the resources of Joe Gibbs Racing's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series crew chiefs Michael McSwain, who oversees efforts for Bobby Labonte, and Greg Zippadelli, crew chief for Tony Stewart.

"Charlotte is always a big race," Addington says. "The crews seem to work a little harder, because they want to have a good showing in front of their family and friends. The influx of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regulars makes the field even stronger. We enjoy the challenge of them in the race, because it is always rewarding to beat them. I have spent some time last week at the Cup shop, working with 'Fatback' and 'Zippy' on some stuff that should make us even better at Charlotte."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Mike Bliss
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing