Kenny Irwain Charlotte Preview

IRWIN HAS A SCORE TO SETTLE AT COCA-COLA 600 CONCORD, N.C. – Kenny Irwin and the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford team are returning to Lowe's Motor Speedway here for this Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 with vengeance on their minds after failing...

IRWIN HAS A SCORE TO SETTLE AT COCA-COLA 600

CONCORD, N.C. – Kenny Irwin and the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford team are returning to Lowe's Motor Speedway here for this Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 with vengeance on their minds after failing to make the starting grid for the running of last May's event. "That was, without a doubt, the lowest point of our season last year," said Irwin, who went on to win the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year title and become the first and only driver in Winston Cup history to top $1 million in earnings in his first full season ($1,459,967). Irwin says there is no doubt in his mind he can do well on the 1.5-mile track this weekend. "We know we can do well because we came back here in the fall last year and qualified 10th," Irwin said. "We're even more excited because we're using in-house cars now -- cars that were built for me and what I need, instead of what worked for other guys. We have a formula that works for my style, a good combination of car and setup. We feel that as a team we're building better cars." Irwin, 28, a racer since he was 6, says missing the Coca-Cola 600 last year was a personal disappointment and he's not about to let that happen again. "That was the first time that I ever missed a race because we could not qualify," said Irwin. "It was very hard on me personally. From the first time I sat in a race car I wanted to do whatever it took to succeed and I've never lost that focus. Missing a race definitely makes you appreciate what you have when you are running well. You might say it's somewhat of a reality check." Irwin says he has matured as a driver in the past year, another factor in the equation of doing well this weekend. "I've learned a lot and I'm still learning," said Irwin. "We're making gains on it but you always want to improve on what you're doing and where you are. We've progressed a lot over a year and as long as we continue improving, the Texaco/Havoline Ford will be in good shape." Irwin will be doing double duty this weekend, gaining extra track time, as he makes his second NASCAR Busch Grand National Series appearance of 1999. He'll drive the No. 11 Rayovac Ford Taurus, fielded by Jarrett-Favre Motorsports, in Saturday's CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 at LMS. "Missing the 600 at Charlotte, one of the biggest races of the year, was a huge disappointment," said Irwin. "I'd say the whole team has something to prove. We're going back there to qualify well and to race well -- no question." Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. (EDT). The race is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Sunday.

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Series NASCAR Cup