Morgan-McClure names Skinner 2002 driver

Mike Skinner has been named the driver of the No. 4 KODAK MAX Film Monte Carlo for the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Season. Skinner and Morgan-McClure Motorsports reached an agreement for a three year contract. Skinner, who began his racing ...

Mike Skinner has been named the driver of the No. 4 KODAK MAX Film Monte Carlo for the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Season. Skinner and Morgan-McClure Motorsports reached an agreement for a three year contract. Skinner, who began his racing career in 1976 at Susanville Speedway in California, debuted in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1986. He began racing the elite Series full time in 1997, after driving in the NASCAR Truck Series for two years. Morgan-McClure Motorsports hopes to give Skinner the opportunity to score his first Winston Cup win. Both Ernie Irvan and Sterling Marlin gained their first Winston Cup victories with the Abingdon, Va.-based team. Skinner, who has five Winston Cup poles to his credit, will "officially" begin in the No. 4 Chevrolet during Daytona Speedweeks 2002. Although Skinner won two demonstration races held in Japan in 1997 and 1998, that elusive first points race victory has gained him a career best finish of second at Talladega in April of 2000. Skinner has used only eight provisional starting spots since February 1997, one of which was based on owner points due to a rainout. Following an extensive knee surgery on Wednesday in the aftermath of an injury at Chicagoland Speedway in July, the 44 year old California native will go through therapy in order to heal in time for off season testing. Scott Eggleston, crew chief for Morgan-McClure, and the new driver plan to spend time together in order to begin the ever important bond between a crew chief and a driver.

MIKE SKINNER (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We've been working on this for awhile. I think it's a great opportunity for Mike Skinner for sure to go with an owner like Larry McClure who's had so much success in the past with the Daytona 500 victories. the long term relationship with the sponsor is really impressive to me. We're looking forward to building a good rapport with them and building a great relationship and having a lot of fun and go racing. "In the Daytona 500 or any of the restrictor plate races, you always want a buddy or someone to work with you. When it gets inside five or 10 laps, all the buddy deals are gone. It doesn't matter if it's your teammate or what. I honestly thought we might have had a small part in helping Dale (Earnhardt) win the Daytona 500 one year. The next year he pushed Jeff Gordon by me, so I learned an awful lot when we thought it was our turn to win. We found out that teammates are good up until only the last five or six laps. I really hate the opportunity is gone for Kevin Harvick and I to work together, but it's really not gone. We can work together in the Daytona 500. When it gets inside five or 10 to go, I'm sure we're not going to work together. "Right now, I'm not sure the count, but I think I've got over 60 teammates at Morgan-McClure Racing. Runt Pittman has done an awesome job with the plate motors in the past, and I'm sure that will continue. The fabricators have done a great job with the bodies on their cars. We used to go over and always look at their cars to see what to do to ours. I think it's a great race car to get in for restrictor plate races, but that's not the only reason we decided to do this. "We want to be a threat at Rockingham and Martinsville and everywhere else we go. I think a lot of this thing is just chemistry. You keep looking for the right chemistry until you find it. Hopefully for our benefit and Larry and everybody at Morgan-McClure Racing we've found it this time. "We're having it done (surgery) first thing in the morning. We postponed it one day so Larry and I could get together and talk to all you folks. I can't thank Richard Childress enough for giving me the opportunity to go get healthy. Richard and Larry are friends. They talked about me. Richard I think is one of the people who recommended me to Larry in the event we didn't stay together. As a car owner, I think he wanted me to stay in (31 car) until at least Talladega. As a friend, he wanted me to get out of the race car and go get my knee operated on so I could be productive for Larry and the whole Kodak team. We've got a great doctor. I think the way the procedure is going to go in the morning, I don't think there's going to be any problems being ready for testing at Daytona. I'm a little more concerned about testing at some of the other places where we do a lot of left-foot braking. Hopefully we'll be able to do that by the middle or end of January. "It builds a lot of self confidence. We had a lot of confidence to start with, and I think this just reassures it. We chose to go in the direction we went because of the chemistry. I think all the parts and pieces today are all good. I don't know that anybody out there has got equipment put in the right hands with a good, smart crew chief, a really good pit crew to get service in and out of the pits and a driver that will mash the gas, I think that everybody has got pretty good stuff right now. In the past, I've seen Larry's cars be above average. I feel like that gives us a good opportunity to win. "As far as landing on my feet, we never was really knocked off our feet. We've had a great relationship with Richard Childress Racing. We won a championship for `em. We won the Japan races, every kind of non-points races you can think of, we've been in victory lane, so at least we know the way to victory lane. Hopefully we'll be able to seal the deal as far as points races go. Our main objective here is to get competitive again, to get this race team competitive, to let Scott show his potential, to let Runt's engines show theirs, the fabrication shop. Everybody at the shop works their tail off. You walk in there and they've got a beautiful facility. They've got I don't know how many race cars sitting there that could be ready to go in no time at all. There's no reason for a team with this much depth to not have a chance to run well."

LARRY McCLURE (Owner Morgan-McClure Motorsports) "Mike was what I think we needed for this race team. We needed to get back to where we were. We've danced around and had two different drivers in the car this year. I think both of them have skill and are good race car drivers but to get someone like Mike Skinner that is always a threat to win, is a competitor and has a lot of desire, I think he's the type of guy... his personality should mesh in with my guys and all those things are really important. We're excited to have him. "As far as Kevin (Lepage) is concerned, when I hired Kevin or asked Kevin to drive the race car, it wasn't a permanent position at that time, so we just kind of came up with an agreement to last as long as we wanted it to last. Then we decided that we'd go on and look at someone else for the remainder of the season. "We're stepping it up or trying to see if we need to step it up by changing drivers for this weekend at Charlotte. We're looking at every avenue and every aspect of our race team to see where we are. We've made several changes. I'm still checking the water to see where we are. We think we've got a really good race team. The last two years we haven't shown that, but we feel with Scott Eggleston's leadership and Runt Pittman's engines and Mike Skinner driving the race car, we should be a formidable foe to a lot of people out here. Our plans are to run up front because I know that Mike likes to mash the button. That's what I like. "I like him (Bobby Hamilton Jr.). Little Stump is a tough race car driver and he likes to go fast. His father and I are still close. He drove for us last year and a couple of years prior to that. We're still good friends and have a good relationship. I think Bobby trusts his son with us and so we're going to look at it real close. You know we've always been looking for a second team and it certainly is going to feel good to him to be in this car. We are in hopes of working something our for next year with him. He's been in Andy Petree's car and he'll get to be in our car and give us a comparison. He'll be able to tell us what kind of race team we have, too. That's the kind of thing we're looking at. "Mike is going to have his leg operated on and he's going to come to a couple of races and help us maybe guide Bobby Hamilton, Jr.'s career in the right path. "We're not sure (who will drive 4 car at Martinsville). We've contacted a couple of other drivers to see if they could race there. I don't think that Bobby Hamilton will be the guy who runs for us at Martinsville. We're looking at somebody else, and I can't really get into that right now."

-MMM-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Andy Petree
Teams Richard Childress Racing