GNC Live Well Racing climbs to the top at Pike's Peak. -No. 36 Team uses pit strategy to claim first win of 2002- FOUNTAIN, Colo. (July 28) - Hank Parker Jr. and his No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team scored the first win of their 2002 season in...
GNC Live Well Racing climbs to the top at Pike's Peak.
-No. 36 Team uses pit strategy to claim first win of 2002-
FOUNTAIN, Colo. (July 28) - Hank Parker Jr. and his No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team scored the first win of their 2002 season in Saturday's NetZero 250 event at Pike's Peak International Raceway (PPIR) in Colorado.
Parker's team used pit strategy to propel the 27-year old Denver, N.C., native to the second win of his NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) career. The GNC Live Well team needed only two pit stops to complete the 250-lap Pike's Peak event, while virtually every other competitor needed a third stop for fuel to finish the race.
The finish was reminiscent of the way Parker and his team stretched its fuel mileage to help him claim the first win of his NBS career at California Speedway in April 2001.
As Parker and his team celebrated in victory lane on Saturday, the driver was quick to point out that had it not been for an ill-handling race car, the team wouldn't have made the strategy call that eventually won the race. Parker and his team elected to pit for adjustments on lap 31 when the second and final caution period of the race was brought on by an accident involving the No. 77 car of Bruce Bechtel.
"We were way, way too tight at the beginning of the race," Parker said. "When the caution came out, we came in and raised the track bar to free the car up. We had no idea that the race would go green from there on out. Who would have expected that? We were just trying to get the car handling right and hoped that we could pick up some track position. For once, the cards fell our way."
In spite of the fact that it was a fuel mileage win, Parker said he felt like his car was fast enough to compete with frontrunners like Greg Biffle, Ron Hornaday and Jason Keller.
"Our car was one of the fastest on the track all day. That's one thing I really want to emphasize," Parker said of his Dodge Intrepid. "We had worked our way into the top-10 even before the leaders pitted that first time. Once we freed up the car on our first stop, we were on a rail. When we took the lead for the last time, I was told that we were pulling away from Biffle, even on older tires. Even without the fuel mileage deal, I felt like we had a top-five car. We just finally got the luck to go along with us and give us a strong finish to go along with a strong run."
The win helps to turn around a season in which anything that can go wrong has gone wrong for Parker and the No. 36 GNC Live Well crew. Crew chief Gary Cogswell and the members of the GNC Live Well team have consistently put strong cars under Parker all season long, only to have accidents and other circumstances deprive them of potential top-five finishes in a number of events.
"We knew in our hearts that a win was coming," crew chief Gary Cogswell said. "We feel like we've knocked on the door several times this year. It's hard to believe some of the circumstances that have knocked us out of contention in other races. We had a windshield tear off get stuck in the cowl when we were running third in Las Vegas, and we had a brake pedal fail when we were in fourth place at Talladega. Just some crazy stuff has happened. I give the guys on the team credit, though. They never let it get them down, and they just keep plugging away. It paid off today."
Cogswell said that, despite reporters questioning him about fuel mileage in the latter stages of the event, he had no concerns about keeping Parker out on the track when race leader Kevin Lepage came in for fuel around lap 233.
"Dennis Chamberlain and Art Harris, the guys who calculate our fuel mileage, told me we had plenty of fuel to go the distance," Cogswell said. "They know what they're doing, so I never gave it another thought after that. I just crossed my fingers and hoped that nothing freaky happened, like a cut tire or something. A win is never a done deal until you see the checkered flag, but I had confidence in our team, our car and our driver. I knew we could make it."
The win gives Parker, Cogswell and the rest of the GNC team a place in the motorsports record books, for two reasons. First, with Saturday's win, Parker and the No. 36 Team Jesel crew became the first team in history to take a Dodge to victory lane in an NBS event. Secondly, Parker's victory, coupled with Robert Pressley's Craftsman Truck Series win in Michigan and Bill Elliott's Winston Cup Series win at Pocono, gave Dodge a clean sweep of NASCAR's top three divisions.
"That's pretty cool, isn't it? I'm honored to even be a part of such a historic weekend," Parker said. "To be the first to give Dodge a win in the Busch Series is awesome, but to be mentioned with guys I admire like Robert Pressley and Bill Elliott is kind of hard to believe. Dodge has an awesome car, and I'm proud to drive one. I hope this is just the first in a long string of sweeps for Dodge in NASCAR."
As if a win wasn't enough, Parker added another highlight to his day when he got to meet comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who gave a post-race concert at PPIR. The two southerners quickly established a bond over their mutual love of outdoor activities.
"We were both being rednecks, talking about hunting and fishing," Parker said of meeting one of his favorite comics. "There's a comedy hunting video he made that I've seen about 100 times, so I started quoting some lines from that to him. He told me I have too much time on my hands. He was a very cool guy. We're going to see if we can get together during the off-season and do a little hunting. Winning the race was the best, but getting to meet him was icing on the cake."
Another GNC Live Well team member literally had icing on his cake at PPIR, as Saturday marked the 21st birthday of mechanic and rear tire carrier Brent Wentz. Wentz told Parker that the win was the best birthday present he could have asked for. The team had already planned a birthday get together for Saturday night in Colorado, so the victory gave them another great reason to celebrate.
The win moves Parker up two positions to 14th in the NBS Drivers' Points Standings.
The GNC Live Well team now heads to Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indiana, site of the 22nd event of the NBS season. The Kroger 200 will air live on TNT, Saturday, August 3, at 8 p.m. EDT.