HUT STRICKLIN (No. 23 Hills Bros Coffee Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Stricklin drove a Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T at Atlanta last fall. Working with crew chief Philippe Lopez, Stricklin qualified 11th and finished 11th after running in...
HUT STRICKLIN (No. 23 Hills Bros Coffee Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Stricklin drove a Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T at Atlanta last fall. Working with crew chief Philippe Lopez, Stricklin qualified 11th and finished 11th after running in the top 10 most of the day. The 40-year-old driver from Calera, Ala., has 20 career starts at AMS and only one top 10. That came in March 1989. Stricklin finished 24th last week at Las Vegas and will be making career start No. 309 on Sunday.
"Last November at Atlanta, we felt like we had the third best Dodge out of Bill Davis' shop. Dave Blaney and Ward Burton both had good cars, but all three were pretty close. We seemed to have a lot of adjustability in it. We got it going really good a third of the way into the race and then we got a little behind on some pit stops. For the most part, we had a good day. We didn't test for Atlanta. We felt like we had a good starting spot last time, so we felt like with what we had and what we learned we'd still be OK.
"I was really actually surprised somewhat by that whole thing. It was something that got thrown together in the last minute, but all-in-all, it was a great effort. It was probably one of the most organized deals I've ever been a part of. Every week with this bunch and everything is very well thought out and planned every week. That's the way it ran right from the start.
"At Rockingham we got off to a bad start, but once we got our adjustments made we were running top 10 laps and some times in the top five. The down side of it was we lost two laps early on and we never could get them back. I felt like we made a lot of gains. I think I made a lot of gains personally. These cars have got some things that are a little different than what I'm used to. That was actually the first time I went to a race track that I had to use a lot of brake on. I had to adjust to some things, and I really don't feel like I got adjusted to it until probably about a third of the way into the race. Once I made my adjustments and got comfortable, I was able to tell them what the car needed and what it was doing and it was able to make us better.
"I really like running at Atlanta. It's a struggle somewhat since they reconfigured it, but I got the hang of it the last race there I think. It's a race track where the speeds have slowed down some, and that's enabled you to race on it a lot better. I think that's why we see a lot of side by side stuff and a lot of close finishes there because there is more than one groove.
"You can race there now. Used to when they first redid it you couldn't because it was so fast. The grip has gone away some and it's really slowed down the corner speeds. Therefore, you can run on the bottom and up high or in the middle and not just at one end of the track. You can run both ends the same way. I like the place.
"Daytona was a bittersweet thing for us. Obviously we were devastated when we didn't make the race. In a nutshell, we let our guard down. We felt like where the team finished in points last year, we'd always have that to fall back on. We didn't feel that good about our speed even though we just missed it by one on speed and by one on provisional. It was just devastating to us. We had some things happen in the 125 that bit us and we didn't have any insurance to fall back on. We put it behind us. When something like that happens, we feel like the best remedy was to get on to the next race. We were able to go to Rockingham and we really didn't get going until on into the race, but we made a lot of gains throughout the race and learned some things that will help us down the road. One of the big things was how I made adjustments to how they got the cars here and we're still finding out some things I need to make us better, too. I think we've made some gains.
"Ward (Davis Motorsports teammate Burton) and I communicate well. Actually the crew chiefs talk more than Ward and I. We're good friends and get along good, but Tommy and Philippe do most of the talking comparing notes and things like that. We kind of figured out what I like that Ward doesn't like and there hasn't been a whole lot of difference. If we can be close to him on setup more than likely we'll be in pretty good shape, too.
"I went and watched an Elvis impersonator at the MGM when I was in Las Vegas. I wasn't too impressed. I started to jump up there and tell him to sit down and let me have it. I didn't have my uniform. He didn't have the moves, and he didn't have the sounds, but he had the look. Actually, he came out with a white suit on and that was the fatter Elvis. The next one he came out with the 60s Elvis, black leather and all that stuff. He was OK. I feel like I could have showed him a thing or two, but I like watching that kind of stuff. It's pretty funny. I've pretty much always been an Elvis fan. I always admired his music. He's probably one of the best entertainers there ever was. I never did get to see him. I do a lot of singing, but I don't always do Elvis songs. I've got a lot of favorite Elvis songs. I like Are You Lonesome Tonight? for a ballad, but I like just about all of the Elvis songs."
BILL DAVIS (Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"Hut ran well in the Hills Bros car last year at Atlanta. Dave Blaney had some great races at Atlanta, too, but I think he could get around Atlanta in a Volkswagen. That's just his place, but I think Hut will do a good job.
"Atlanta is awful fast, but it's gotten better. I think the 23 has bounced back from not making Daytona. It was a freak deal. They had a good car. They should have had a good race, but I think they're over it. They'll focus on the future and be OK.
"We expected to come out fighting this year, so we're doing what we expected to do. There's very few places the 22 is weak anymore. We've smoothed out some of the rough edges on the short tracks and the road courses. We've worked hard on our weaknesses, and I think we can certainly be a top 10 car every week.
"Hut and Philippe are going to be just fine. Philippe is real smart. He understands the car, and he wants to win races. Dodge is off to a great start, and we got to share in that with the Daytona win. A lot of people have worked really hard on the Dodge program, and it's beginning to pay off. We were off a little bit in Vegas, but we'll bounce back for Atlanta. Hopefully both of our Dodges will have good runs down there."