HARRISBURG, NC (August 30, 1999) Four one-thousandths of a second. Try as you might, it is hard to imagine anything that can be accomplished in that unit of time.
HARRISBURG, NC (August 30, 1999) Four one-thousandths of a second. Try as you might, it is hard to imagine anything that can be accomplished in that unit of time. Measure that time over a .533-mile distance at an average speed of 120 miles per hour, and the computation yields a total of distance less than eight inches. Unfortunately, that was the time and distance Rich Bickle and the 10-10-345 Pontiac team missed qualifying for Saturday's Goody's 500 NASCAR Winston Cup event at Bristol Motor Speedway. In all, the qualifying separation of the entire 43-car field was just over two-tenths of a second, one of the tightest starting grids on the circuit this season. Bickle's time was 37th best overall, but because of NASCAR provisional rules, the Tyler Jet Motorsports team had to pack up and head for home. "This is a tough thing to swallow," said a dejected Bickle afterward. "This team has the ability and determination to run in the Top 15 every week. It's tough knowing that and then seeing the car getting loaded on the trailer." Bickle just missed getting into the field during Friday's first-round qualifying session. While the Top 25 are automatically assured a spot in the starting field in first-round qualifying, Friday's 5 p.m. starting time all but guaranteed the Top 36 a position in the race. That's because second-round qualifying action would be held in the early afternoon heat of the following day. Bickle's lap in first round proved to be the 37th best. "I thought we were going to get in on Friday," Bickle said. "We were the last car to get bumped out of the Top 36. When that happened, we knew we had an uphill battle." Saturday's morning practice session saw Bickle and the 10-10-345 team post the fastest speed among the 45 contestants entered. Because of the hot and sunny conditions, however, that speed was a full two miles an hour slower than those turned in the cool of early Friday evening. "That pretty much told us we'd have to have a killer lap in second round to make the show," said Bickle. "Everyone really sucked it up and the car was perfect when we hit the track. I drove it in as hard as I could - any harder and we would have taken it home in a box. We just missed the show by the slimmest of margins. Its a huge disappointment for all of us." In the end, Bickle tried to be philosophical about the setback. "All the guys who ran up front in the race Saturday night Tony Stewart, Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt arent looking back at Bristol today," said Bickle. "They are looking ahead to Darlington this week. That is what we are doing too. You cant look back. A solid run at Darlington will do a lot to ease the pain of Bristol." The 50th-annual Southern 500 at Darlington (SC) Raceway gets underway with practice and qualifying on Friday, September 3. The historic 500-mile event will take the green flag at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, September 5 and will be telecast live on ESPN.