Fontana Kenny Irwin Rolling the Dice

IRWIN ROLLING THE DICE FOR RACE ON WEST COAST FONTANA, Calif. – Kenny Irwin and the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford team are taking their chances on the setup they'll use for this Sunday's California 500 at California Speedway. "We checked our...

IRWIN ROLLING THE DICE FOR RACE ON WEST COAST

FONTANA, Calif. – Kenny Irwin and the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford team are taking their chances on the setup they'll use for this Sunday's California 500 at California Speedway.

"We checked our notes from last year and compared the track to others on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit," said Irwin. "We decided to try a setup similar to the one we use on the Las Vegas track. We feel like we need to improve over last year's run at Fontana, and since we didn't test there we had to use our notes."

For comparison's sake, Fontana has corners banked at 14 degrees while those at Las Vegas are 12 degrees. The frontstretch is 11 degrees at Fontana, nine at Las Vegas, while the backstretch is three degrees at each of the tracks. The major difference is that Fontana measures two miles around while Las Vegas is shorter, at one and one-half miles in length.

Irwin, the 1998 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, had a respectable run in his first Winston Cup race at Fontana, finishing 16th after an 18th-place start.

"That wasn't bad," said Irwin. "But it's not where we want, or need, to be."

Irwin makes a similar comparison to his 1999 season to-date.

"We're almost one-third of the way through the year," said Irwin. "We've had good cars but, overall, our finishes don't show that. On a scale of one to 10, we've run a seven or eight but our finishes show a four or five. We should be counting our top 10's but we've just been in the wrong place at the wrong time for the most part. It gets frustrating, but knowing we haven't had any mechanical failures this year and knowing how well we've qualified and how well we've been able to race gives us confidence."

Doug Richert, crew chief for the Texaco/Havoline Ford, shares his driver's sentiments, and optimism.

"We haven't been able to show how good we have been," Richert said. "It's aggravating because it's been due to circumstances beyond our control. But we also look at every day as a new day and we know we have the ability to be a contender every week."

Irwin, who has already qualified for the Millennium Bud Shootout at Daytona next February by winning the pole at the Texas race in March, feels the communication level between Richert and himself is a big reason he is running better this year than in his rookie year.

"We are running good right off the truck every week," Irwin said. "Doug and I are on the same page before we even get to the track. He knows what I need and makes sure the car is prepared that way."

But running a one-and-a-half-mile track setup at a two-mile track?

"I trust Doug's judgment," Irwin said. "And, just as the dice have rolled against this Texaco/Havoline team at times this year, this setup just may work for us."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Doug Richert