Darlington II: Mike Skinner preview

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Aug. 26, 2003) - After three races of piloting the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac, Mike Skinner is feeling more comfortable in his role as the substitute driver for Jerry Nadeau, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a May 2 ...

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Aug. 26, 2003) - After three races of piloting the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac, Mike Skinner is feeling more comfortable in his role as the substitute driver for Jerry Nadeau, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a May 2 accident in Richmond.

Skinner took over the Army ride four weeks ago at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. He did not compete at the road race the following week in Watkins Glen, but returned to the oval scene for the recent races in Michigan and Bristol.

The results might not be pleasing to Skinner, but the weekly improvement does add confidence and optimism to the veteran driver as he prepares for Sunday's (Aug. 31) Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

In his first three races driving the Army of One black and gold car for MB2 Motorsports, Skinner posted finishes of 35th (Indianapolis), 22nd (Michigan) and 18th (Bristol).

"We're better than that, but at least we're moving in the right direction," commented Skinner. "We've only been together a brief time and that makes it difficult. But the more we race the better it will be because we'll develop a better understanding of each other. The good thing is that we developed an instant spirit and an open dialogue right from the get go."

Before Skinner and the U.S. Army team arrive in Darlington for the 367-lap race on the daunting 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval, the team will conduct a test session at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

"We want to try and get ahead of the learning curve and get to know each other better," said Skinner. "A test session is a more relaxed atmosphere and good opportunity to do some bonding."

Regarding Darlington, Skinner feels it's a distinctive race track that makes it one of most difficult venues on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.

"Darlington makes for some great racing," explained Skinner. "Its unique shape allows for close competition and plenty of excitement. It's a tough place to race at, but it's also fun - no doubt about that."

In the spring race at Darlington, Skinner posted an 11th place finish, driving the No. 4 Kodak car. The No. 01 U.S. Army car finished 35th with Nadeau behind the wheel. Nadeau's result was not indicative of the overall performance for the Army team.

"Jerry qualified third and was running third in the race before an oil pressure fitting broke," said crew chief Ryan Pemberton. "With Mike's solid run and our performance at the spring race in Darlington, we have some good data to go on. Hopefully we can make it work this weekend and have a solid finish."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Skinner , Jerry Nadeau