BRISTOL, TN --- Bristol Motor Speedway may not be the Outback of Australia but for the driver of the unsponsored ...
BRISTOL, TN --- Bristol Motor Speedway may not be the Outback of Australia but for the driver of the unsponsored # 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac it seems like it could be. Instead of alligators, fires and cold weather, the obstacles are the other 42 Busch Grand National cars trying to get to the front on the tough half-mile, high-banked oval. In the end there will be one winner, and with a little luck, that could be Mike "Magic Shoes" McLaughlin.
"Bristol is all about survival and having a car in one piece at the end of the day," McLaughlin said. "There are so many ways to get in trouble at Bristol, that you have to have luck on your side to come out of there with a strong finish."
McLaughlin has seen both ends of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. His first two visits to the track were marked by failing to qualify for the race. After a chance meeting with one of the Bristol Motor Speedway masters, Harry Gant, McLaughlin learned how to race the track and recorded a couple of strong finishes. The last few visits have seen McLaughlin the victim of unfortunate circumstances, he finished 42nd and 28th there last season.
"I have had great race cars at Bristol and crashed and had bad race cars, stayed out of trouble and recorded good finishes," McLaughlin said. "I have been run over at Bristol more than any other race track we go to, something will happen up front, I will slow down and then get slammed from behind by someone that doesn't bother to slow down."
One key to lowering the risk of trouble is qualifying up front. So far in 2001, McLaughlin is averaging an 11th place starting spot with three top-ten qualifying efforts. Another strong qualifying run will be key to Saturday's race.
"It is going to be real important for us to have a strong qualifying effort on Friday," McLaughlin said. "In my opinion it's more important than anywhere else to qualify up front at Bristol. I know Tim Shutt (crew chief) and the guys will give me a great car, hopefully I can come through and give the guys a solid starting spot."
McLaughlin will start his SURVIVAL game Friday afternoon with qualifying and then take the green flag in the Cheez-It 250 on Saturday at 1:00pm EST