Hut Stricklin Out of Ride as SBIII Closes

Stricklin's adrift as SBIII closes doors By Dave Rodman MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 30, 1999) Hut Stricklin was shaking his head after his Bud Pole Qualifying run Saturday for the Sam's Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park. But he was absolutely...

Stricklin's adrift as SBIII closes doors By Dave Rodman

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 30, 1999) Hut Stricklin was shaking his head after his Bud Pole Qualifying run Saturday for the Sam's Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park. But he was absolutely ashen when considering the future of his driving career. Whether or not his Akins Motorsports Barbasol Ford would be eligible for a provisional was the least of his worries after SBIII Motorsports owner Scott Barbour closed the doors on his NASCAR Winston Cup Series operation Friday and laid off his staff.

"I was as surprised as anybody," Stricklin said, forlornly rubbing the back of his neck and shaking his head as he explained the team had shut down Friday. "I got a phone call the night before last from Scott telling me the sponsorship check wasn't any good and basically he wasn't in a position to run the team any more out of his own pocket.

"He went by the shop yesterday and laid everybody off."

On Saturday, the team's Web site -- www.sbiiimotorsports.com -- was blank and Barbour was unavailable for comment. For his part, Stricklin blinked hard as he tried to relate his latest misfortune in a season in which he went from a crew chief/team manager at the beginning of 1999 to a successful bail-out driver for two teams that experienced varying degrees of distress themselves.

"I'm devastated -- totally," the Calera, Ala., native said. "Here you are, a couple of weeks ago with a three-year deal and thinking you're set only to have all this blow up. It's really something to me, but it's just been on them deals in my career where I've had a number of them happen to me.

"I've gotten knocked down before and somehow or other I've been able to get back up. It's just another blow I've been handed."

At North Carolina Speedway a week ago, Barbour announced that he had partnered with Motorsports Safety Technologies to sponsor his No. 58 Fords for the next four seasons. He also announced Stricklin had signed to drive the car for the next three years.

Stricklin began the year as crew chief and team manager for Triad Motorsports, an ill-fated NASCAR Winston Cup Series team that went to Speedweeks in Daytona Beach, Fla., with driver Gary Bradberry but shut down after experiencing difficulty finding sponsorship.

Since then Stricklin has joined with Barbour and NASCAR Busch Series team owner Brad Akins to right their programs and create the feeling there was light at the end of the tunnel after they had each gone through a couple drivers this season. Stricklin will finish the season with Akins Motorsports in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Barbour's team, in particular, had posted some of its best runs with Stricklin and both driver and owner had expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the future. The team had, however, run the balance of the season with Barbour's company, Turbine Solutions, on its quarter panels although Hollywood Video and Federated Auto Parts had also appeared for several races apiece.

Stricklin said he had talked to Akins about continuing in the No. 38 Fords but "he don't have a sponsor for this car for next year, so we don't know if we'll be able to do anything."

"After this race, on Monday I'll start exploring all the options and let 'em know I'm available," said Stricklin, who said he would consider opportunities in any of NASCAR's three top divisions, including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He did say that, while his experience at the beginning of this season was beneficial, become a mechanic or administrator would be a move once again born of desperation.

"I feel I've got five or six good years of driving left," Stricklin said, peering out across Memphis' pit road as he spoke. "I enjoy working on the cars -- the mechanics of it and I'm glad I got the chance to do it because I really learned a lot. Five or six years down the road I may still want to be involved that way.

"But right now I still want to drive. I still enjoy it and I still want to win races, to be a contender and to run up front. Obviously, my goal is to stay in Winston Cup -- that's where my family is.

"But I'm open to about anything."

Stricklin did get his provisional for the Sam's Town 250, so for another day he would have a chance to smile.

nascar.com

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Hut Stricklin , Gary Bradberry