Wallace, Skinner look forward to Japan DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 11, 1998) As NASCAR prepares for its third trip to the Orient in as many years, it must also reflect on how much has been accomplished in such a short time. That's especially true...
Wallace, Skinner look forward to Japan
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 11, 1998) As NASCAR prepares for its third trip to the Orient in as many years, it must also reflect on how much has been accomplished in such a short time. That's especially true for past Japan winners Rusty Wallace and Mike Skinner.
Both Wallace and Skinner and their respective teams turned their performances up a notch in the latter part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.
Wallace finished with three top-five and four top-10 finishes in his last four events, including a win in the Dura Lube/Kmart 500 at Phoenix that broke a 59-race winless streak.
Skinner, the defending champion of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' Japan event, and the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet finished the 1998 season with a flurry as well, with three top-10 runs in the last five races, including a third-place finish in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi -- Coca-Cola 500, the first oval track event for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars in Japan, is set for Sunday, Nov. 22, at 12:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 21).
Two years ago, NASCAR held its first demonstration event in Japan at the Suzuka Circuit. Thirty teams competed before a global audience, including some of NASCAR's biggest stars. From the other side of the world, TBS Sports broadcast this event live, to a national television audience here in America.
For that first trip, the logistical challenge to move 30 NASCAR teams, equipment and over 500 personnel was well worth the significant benefits a sport receives when showcased before a global audience.
"When we first started talking about this in late 1994 with the executives at Suzuka Circuit about the possibilities of an demonstration race there, we weren't sure what to expect," said Paul Brooks, Vice President, Office of the President. "Needless to say, the demonstration races at Suzuka the last two years have surpassed all of our expectations. And we expect this years event at Twin Ring Motegi to surpass everything we have done so far."
With 13 different divisions of within the United States, it was a natural move for NASCAR to expand overseas. "We have fans from all over the world," said Brooks "We have learned first hand over the last two years that the Japanese motorsports fan likes our product. The NASCAR teams and drivers captivated the Japanese fans at Suzuka."
A few of the drivers who have particularly enjoyed themselves the last two years in Japan have been Skinner, the 1997 winner at Suzuka and Rusty Wallace, the winner of the inaugural race at Suzuka in 1996.
"I think we have made a lot more fans for NASCAR Winston Cup racing by our trips over there," Skinner said. "And I'm sure that was one of the main purposes for going over there - to expand our fan base. The Japanese fans really seemed to be thrilled to have us race in their country and I was thrilled to win in their country."
The NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi -- Coca-Cola 500 will feature stars from several NASCAR divisions. Current NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon, current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup champion.
Source: NASCAR Online