Martinsville Rich Bickle; crashes spoil top ride

MARTINSVILLE, VA (April 9, 2000) - "On any other day than today, Rusty Wallace would have won this race and we would have finished second." Rich Bickle's voice trailed off in a 'what should have been' pause as he wondered aloud when told...

MARTINSVILLE, VA (April 9, 2000) - "On any other day than today, Rusty Wallace would have won this race and we would have finished second." Rich Bickle's voice trailed off in a 'what should have been' pause as he wondered aloud when told Wallace finished 10th in the event. On the other hand, Bickle had a clear view on how his top effort in the #60 Power Team Chevrolet got ground into a disappointing 30th place finish on the rough and tumble Martinsville half-mile oval. "Guys were just running all over each other," said Bickle matter of factly. "I was directly involved in three of the 17 cautions there were today and I drove through half a dozen more. It was pretty amazing. Guys were using a lot of hand signals today, if you know what if mean." Bickle, who subbed for the injured Geoffrey Bodine in the #60 Power Team mount, started 30th and moved up nine positions in the first 10 laps only to see the charge get turned around with a spin exiting Turn Four. "I just caught the inside curb coming off the corner and it loosened the car just a little," said Bickle. "I guess the #10 car (Johnny Benson) couldn't check up in time and he drove right through me." Now a lap down to the field, Bickle fought to get back past the leader Wallace. The driver of the #2 Ford had the field covered this day leading a whopping 343 of the total 500 laps. For 250 of those circuits, Bickle was Wallace's equal or, at times, better. "Rusty had an incredible car and so did I," said Bickle. "I fought with him for 100 laps to get my lap back. I nearly made it twice, but NASCAR saw it differently and they put me back in line. When I finally did get by him, I stayed in front for 150 laps. The Power Team Chevy was incredible. We knew the rain was coming Saturday, so we treated the morning practice as Happy Hour. About two-thirds through, Jim (Crew chief Jim Long) asked what else I wanted to do with the car and I told him we should put the cover over it. Bad fast, boys. Our lap times during the race showed we were faster than Rusty was at times and he was wearing everyone else out. We had a sweet piece." The taste turned sour later in the race when Bickle spun in Turn Three on Lap 143. "The #22 car (Ward Burton) drilled me," said Bickle. "He just center punched me going into the corner. I never had a chance. It tore up the grill and front ductwork on the car we struggled with overheating problems at times after that." After another 50-lap run in Wallace's shadow, the crashfest turned into a trifecta for Bickle on Lap 392 when he was involved in a Turn Two incident with Robbie Gordon. "I'm under him up to his door exiting the corner and he turns hard left right over my hood," said Bickle. "The contact put me down into the grass and into the inside wall. That was the knockout punch on our day. After that, we could never recover. We were just soldering around, only racing the cars on our lap and trying to stay out of the way of the guys who were fighting for the win. Even then we still had to fight our way through a bunch of wrecks. Heck, there were three or four wrecks at the end that they didn't throw the yellow flag for. It was like a heavyweight title fight. Guys would wreck, stagger off to the next corner and wreck again. I'm sure it was a great show for the fans, but there were sure a lot of torn up race cars." Bickle, who will now go back to concentrating on his own Popeyes Chicken/Aqua Velva NASCAR Busch Series effort, earned $34,675 for the afternoon's Winston Cup work. "We would have probably finished in the top dozen or so cars if we wouldn't have had that final deal with Gordon," said Bickle of his problems. "Michael Waltrip finished third and I can't remember how many times I passed him. I'm happy Michael, that's a great finish for him. He's had his more of his share of the kind of days we had today. We had a great car and pretty lousy luck. That's the way it's been for the Power Team guys all year. Their luck started off with Geoffrey getting hurt at Daytona and it's gone downhill from there. They sure deserve better than they got today. Same with Rusty's guys. They had tire trouble and got caught up in somebody else's mess too. "I'm just happy to come back and race with the Winston Cup guys," Bickle concluded. "I've been in this garage a bunch for the last 10 years and it's days like today that tell me even though we didn't get the finish we expected, I can still compete at this level. I raced with Rusty all day and he's who you measure yourself at places like Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond. The Power Team guys had the car today. Joe Bessey and his team should be proud they can still put that kind of piece on the track despite everything that has happened to them this year. It was a privilege to drive their car. They are going to get their share of top finishes this season. I'm just a little bummed out one of them wasn't today."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rich Bickle , Ward Burton , Michael Waltrip , Geoffrey Bodine , Johnny Benson