Skinner ready to tackle '99 By Shawn A. Akers WINSTON-SALEM, (Jan. 16, 1999) After only two years, Mike Skinner doesn't consider himself a championship contender in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series just yet. At this point, a top-five...
Skinner ready to tackle '99 By Shawn A. Akers
WINSTON-SALEM, (Jan. 16, 1999) After only two years, Mike Skinner doesn't consider himself a championship contender in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series just yet. At this point, a top-five points contender sounds a little bit far-fetched for the driver of the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet as well. But with veteran crew chief Larry McReynolds back, the team is ready to make a run at not only its first victory but also at grabbing a few headlines throughout the year. "If we can carry some momentum into the season and have some good runs and have some racing luck, then maybe we can get to Victory Lane a couple of times and make some headway," Skinner said. "But that's a tall order. "Two years ago in my rookie year, Jeremy (Mayfield) and I were racing each other in the back at Daytona, and now, all of a sudden, Jeremy has elevated his performance to where he has led the points. I think your situation has a lot to do with that. Us, as a team, we're still doing just a little bit better than before. I don't know if we're a top-five contender yet, but we're going to go into each race giving 110 percent and do the best job we can and go to these race tracks and take what they give us. At the end of the year, we'll just tally the points up and see where we stand." Skinner says he's still recovering from knee surgery he underwent last month, stemming from a pair of hard wrecks early in the 1998 season at Atlanta and Texas. Skinner missed two races, and that in itself relegated him to a 21st-place position in the standings. He did have four top-five finishes and eight top-10s, but it certainly wasn't enough to satisfy Skinner's appetite. In addition to Skinner's injuries, the team also underwent some internal changes last year, with McReynolds coming over from the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet team, with driver Dale Earnhardt, midway through the season. "When we came back from Japan the year before, we had a lot of momentum going into last season, and we finished in the top-10 at Daytona, and that was great," McReynolds said. "We lost all that momentum when we got to Atlanta and that right front tire went out. We tried to patch the season up, and then we went to Texas and obviously that was devastating, too. When I got back in the car, I probably shouldn't have. But we were able to recover and make some good runs at the end of the year." Skinner is coming off his second straight victory in Japan in the NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi-Coca-Cola 500 last November. He said he hopes to carry that momentum back to Daytona, where he has won two career Bud Poles. McReynolds will be looking for his second straight Daytona 500 championship, having won with Earnhardt a year ago. "We definitely have a lot of momentum going into Daytona," Skinner said. "I told Larry I'd like to see Larry McReynolds win back-to-back Daytona 500s. But there are 42 others that would like to win it, too. We've got a good superspeedway program, and a lot of momentum. We've been so close, and we haven't won yet. Now, if they can just find a way to move the Daytona 500 to Japan, then that would be good."
Source: NASCAR Online