Martinsville Skinner Stops His Slide

Skinner stops his slide By Dave Rodman Mike Skinner stopped his slide at Martinsville. After posting an average finish of 31.7 in his last three NASCAR Winston Cup Series races, former series points leader Mike Skinner was looking for the...

Skinner stops his slide By Dave Rodman

Mike Skinner stopped his slide at Martinsville. After posting an average finish of 31.7 in his last three NASCAR Winston Cup Series races, former series points leader Mike Skinner was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel marked by injury and frustration. He found it Sunday at the most unlikely of places -- cramped and cranky Martinsville Speedway. The driver of the Lowe's Chevrolet posted a 4th-place finish in the Goody's Body Pain 500 on the .526-mile oval.

Unlikely? Skinner had qualified 22nd, although he admitted he had run with a bit too much gusto on his Bud Pole Qualifying laps. But even so, the Richard Childress Racing ride had struggled some in the three practice sessions on the tight .526-mile oval.

"The car was always good -- I just messed up qualifying bad," Skinner said after completing his 997th short track lap in the last two Sundays. "We were just terrible on short runs, but our car was awesome after it got about 75 or 80 laps on the tires. For the first 50 laps they'd get so much track position on me that it didn't do any good to be the fastest car."

Skinner was only fudging a little bit, as the race went green for the final 113 laps after the 10th caution of the day. His car, however, was stout enough to hang around the top-10 all day. Only a cagey two-tire stop by race winner John Andretti and the stronger cars of 2nd- and 3rd-place finishers Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon held him back.

"This race team did a great job," Skinner said. "Larry (McReynolds, crew chief) and the guys changed a bunch of springs this morning on the car and we decided to go with some stuff we ran at some other places and here last year. We were good on long runs -- we just have to find that short run package.

"We felt like we could've had something for them if we could've done that."

For the short haul, Skinner is absolutely glowing after reversing his slide in the point standings. He had fallen as far as 11th coming into Martinsville after finishes of 32nd, 42nd and 21st at Darlington, Texas and Bristol, respectively. Skinner roared out of the blocks at the beginning of the season with four straight top-10 finishes.

He is now 8th in the standings, unofficially 34 points behind 7th-place Bobby Labonte and 245 behind leader Burton.

"The only bad race we had was Darlington," Skinner said, rationalizing the other two lead balloons. "We've been in the top-10 everywhere else. We had unfortunate deals - tight racing and all - and then a penalty that probably shouldn't have happened at Bristol. We had a tire problem at Texas. Darlington is the only bad race this team has had.

"We've just got to get back on track here."

And next weekend's DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway might be the place to do it. Skinner is a former Bud Pole winner at Daytona International Speedway and finished 4th in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Right now he's only looking at leaving Virginia with a big smile on his face.

"Jamie won a NASCAR Winston Racing Series show last night at Caraway Speedway," proud papa Skinner said of his son's short-track exploits in North Carolina. "I had to do something to keep pace."

But his countenance may change on Monday morning.

"Look at all the bodies on these cars," Skinner said, standing amidst a sea of rumpled, steaming cars in the Martinsville garage. "It was pretty rough. We had a lot of close calls. I tore the right side off and everybody else tore the left side off. Richard (Childress, team owner) will have me up there Monday morning welding fenders."

But it's a guarantee Skinner will be whistling while he works.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Mike Skinner
Teams Richard Childress Racing