Indianapolis Rich Bickle preview

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (July 28, 2000) - Dave Fuge doesn't flinch when you ask him what he thinks the Xpress Motorsports team can accomplish in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway August 5. "I'd like to think that when we leave the...

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (July 28, 2000) - Dave Fuge doesn't flinch when you ask him what he thinks the Xpress Motorsports team can accomplish in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway August 5. "I'd like to think that when we leave the shop we can win the pole and win the race," said the veteran crew chief who will spearhead the Xpress Motorsports entry with Rich Bickle behind the wheel at Indy. "I set my goals pretty high. I don't want to set goals that are lower than what I think we can achieve. Realistically, I think we have the equipment and the ability to do it. Whether we can put it all together in one race and make it happen, who knows? I think we have a shot and that's all you can ask for going in." For his part, Bickle would like nothing better than to steer the bright red #61 Stoops Freightliner/IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet to Victory Lane. The 39-year-old Edgerton, WI veteran has three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories to his credit but has never won in 81 career Winston Cup starts. In his last Winston Cup appearance, Bickle subbed for injured Terry Labonte steering the Kellogg's Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish in the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono (PA) Raceway July 23. A victory at Indianapolis would be a huge upset and Bickle knows it. "Man, that would set everyone on their ear," said Bickle. "I know we're a long shot to win, but it's certainly not out of the question. Everyone at Xpress Motorsports has really dedicated themselves to this project. A solid run in the Brickyard 400 would be the highlight of their season and mine too." Like Bickle, Xpress Motorsports has competed in the NASCAR Busch Series this season posting several top runs with Hut Stricklin behind the wheel. At midseason, the decision to concentrate on a Brickyard 400 program was made by Fuge and Xpress Motorsports team owner, Steve Coulter. "Steve worked for Cummins Engine Company for 20 years," said Fuge. "Cummins is located just south of Indianapolis in Columbus, IN, and Steve still has a lot of friends an business associates there. He started his trucking company - IWX Motor Freight - in Columbus. Ever since I came to work here in 1997, Steve has always said he wanted to run the Brickyard. We talked about it for three years now and we finally decided this was the year to do it." Once the decision to field a Brickyard 400 entry was made, the search for a driver began. According to Fuge, the search was a short one. "Rich was an easy choice," said Fuge. "We want to race and Rich is the same way. He wants to be competitive and so do we. It was really kind of a no brainer to put him in the seat because he's a real good flat-track racer. Rich has run well at Indianapolis and he runs well at all the other flat tracks on the circuit. That, and he's motivated." A close look indicates Bickle has had more than his share of success in the Brickyard 400. In the inaugural 1994 race, Bickle steered a Melling Racing entry to a first-day, 19th-place qualifying effort. He then made the race in the No. 40 Dick Brooks car in 1995 before sitting out the 1996 event because his contract with the Richard Petty Motorsports NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team would only let him compete in a Dodge that season. Bickle posted his best Brickyard showing in 1997 qualifying 10th, running in the Top-15 all day before a cut tire late in the race resulted in a hard Turn 3 crash. Bickle again made the 1998 Brickyard classic, this time in a Cale Yarborough-owned mount, before failing to qualify for the 1999 event. "I've had a whole year to think about that," said Bickle, who drove the #45 Tyler Jet Motorsports entry at Indianapolis last year. "We came in here and were third in the General Motors test. Then we came back and failed to make the race. Later, I got fired from that ride and a lot of people pointed back to Indy and said that was the reason. I never felt that way. There were a lot of other things that we're going on there that had nothing to do with me. The fact that team just got sold should tell you something. I'm motivated to do well in every race I enter, but to say I feel like I have something to prove at Indy this year is an understatement." Bickle, who is running his own Bickle/Smith Motorsports NASCAR Busch Series effort this year, wound up 14th on the General Motors speed charts in recent testing for this year's Brickyard event. His lap of 176.457 came in race trim as the team did not do a "sticker run" like most of the other cars in the test. "Everything went pretty well at the tests, especially considering this was the first time out with our new chassis," Fuge stated. "It showed very good promise. It was also the first time we worked with Rich and that was also very good. We were pretty happy with everything right out of the box. "The second test, we brought another new car and it was a little unbalanced aerodynamically. We kind of fought that a little, so we really didn't gain like we wanted to in the second test. The good part about it is we know exactly what has to be down to make it the way we want it. The fact we didn't get the speed we wanted out of the second test isn't that important because we learned what we needed to make it go fast when we come back." Whatever the outcome for Bickle and the Xpress Motorsports team come August 5, it won't be for lack of effort or resources according to Fuge. "It's been a challenge to do this but fortunately we have everything here at our shop to do it," Fuge stated. "We are pretty self-sufficient. As far as personnel are concerned, I've had my own Winston cup team in the past and we have quite a few team members with Winston Cup experience. I don't think there's any disadvantage there. If there is a disadvantage, it's that we're not running the full series week to week. It really helps to be there every week and see what's going on. You have to watch what your competitors are doing. There are subtle things they might be doing that can turn out to be a huge advantage for them. You can't just go by the rulebook. "We done everything we can to make sure we had the best technology available to us," Fuge concluded. "That's the way we've approached this whole program. We're not going to walk away from this wishing we had done this or that." Bickle and the #61 Xpress Motorsports Chevrolet will take the green flag in the Brickyard 400 on Saturday, August 5 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The event will be telecast live by ABC television and the event will be broadcast worldwide by MRN radio.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rich Bickle , Terry Labonte , Hut Stricklin , Richard Petty , Cale Yarborough
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports