Mike Skinner, Larry McReynolds - The Real Deal

Skinner, McReynolds: "This ... is the real deal" By Dave Rodman HAMPTON, Ga. (March 10, 1999) Second-year NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Mike Skinner wishes the circuit had another couple of weeks off -- so he could savor his spot atop the ...

Skinner, McReynolds: "This ... is the real deal" By Dave Rodman

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 10, 1999) Second-year NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Mike Skinner wishes the circuit had another couple of weeks off -- so he could savor his spot atop the point standings of the most high profile and competitive racing series in the world.

Skinner, driver of Richard Childress Racing's No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet, has a 51-point lead in the standings over Rusty Wallace following three of 34 races this season. Skinner finished fourth for the second time this season last Sunday in the Las Vegas 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His team, led by crew chief Larry McReynolds, has been a model of consistency, as Skinner and Wallace have been the only two drivers in the series to post top-10 finishes in all three races this season.

"We're hungry," the 41-year-old California native said simply. "We've got the race team. We've got the pit crew. We've got the crew chief. We've got a Chevrolet and it's awesome. I just need to get better as a driver with the chassis.

"I wish we could take another week off because I got to keep that thing (points lead) for two weeks last time. Keeping it a month would be pretty awesome. That's how you run good in points -- consistency. We've got a pretty consistent team right now. I just hope we can go to Atlanta and get another top-five."

Each week this season Skinner has honestly been able to say he's a contender to win. Heading into this weekend's Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway it would be especially satisfying for Skinner to break his bubble. At Atlanta last spring Skinner crashed in the race and suffered injuries that put much of his 1998 campaign on a downhill slide.

"This team is the real deal," Skinner said. "This isn't a fluke. The guys on this pit crew are awesome. The pit stops (at Las Vegas) were awesome as usual. I think we had one or two that wasn't perfect, but as a whole, they did a great job for me all day. What a great effort.

"They adjusted well on the car. Larry McReynolds, I can't say enough. Those guys are the ones that do everything for me. I just need to get better at telling them what I need before we hit the halfway mark."

Despite Skinner's self-deprecating mode, McReynolds says his driver has nothing to be ashamed of.

"Mike is doing a good job," McReynolds said. "This race team has come a long way. He reads something into the car, and I really try to make him think about it before I start making adjustments. All you have to go on is what he's telling you. We try to make baby step adjustments. It's easy to leapfrog. I think he's doubting that he's giving us the whole picture or that he's not giving us enough of the picture, but that's going to come. This team is solid, solid as a rock. I can't wait to get to Atlanta."

Skinner insists he can, and must do better at getting his crew the information it needs.

"I have to get better at telling Larry what I need out of this car," Skinner said. "We're getting out-chassisied, but we're not getting outrun. I just have to keep learning and plugging with this Lowe's Chevrolet. We don't need a driver. We need a little better chassis man behind the wheel.

"I have to quit losing my patience, like I did with about three laps to go (at Las Vegas). I'm lucky I didn't wreck and lose about four spots. When it gets down to about three laps to go, and I'm not going to catch them, I have to learn to calm down. We're going to win one of these days."

McReynolds agrees again that with the team's performance, Atlanta would be as likely a spot as any for Childress' second team to get its first victory in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series point race. Skinner has won several non-point special events over the last two years.

"We've got three straight top-sixes," McReynolds said. "That's pretty solid for this team and Mike and everybody. We're leaving here (Las Vegas) with the points lead. That 99 (Jeff Burton) is coming and a lot of others.

"I guess now we've led 15 laps of a 500-lap race. It's still early. We've got another berth in the (Winston) No Bull 5 at Charlotte. We'll be testing there. Mike ran awfully good at Charlotte in October until we got caught up in that wreck. He's driving with a good head on his shoulders right now. These guys act like they don't mind racing beside him. They know he's going to let you know he's there, but you don't have to worry about him spinning you out or turning you sideways. He's earning their respect. I'm tickled to death for him.

"Our pit crew, they're doing their job. The pit crew is as solid as you could ask for. We lost a guy from last year's pit crew, but (team manager) David Smith worked with the new crew member, and it's like we haven't missed a beat."

And Skinner, discussing the finish of last week's race, in which brothers Ward and Jeff Burton ran side-by-side near the end of the day seeking their second and sixth career victories, respectively, showed he's lost none of his spunk as he seeks to break his cherry.

"With a couple of laps left to go, I would have knocked my brother up in the grandstands to win this race," he said. "You aren't brothers with five to go -- you're racers. But I'm happy with this finish. It's good for Lowe's; it's good for Chevrolet. We have another shot at the next No Bull race.

"I guess I could say I'm pleased with it, but we sure need to win one of these days. We're knocking on the door, but we can't get in. One of these days, we're going to knock it down."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , David Smith
Teams Richard Childress Racing