Rich Bickle tabbed to drive No. 60 this weekend

MOORESVILLE, NC (April 4, 2000) - With the tickets in hand and his bags already packed, Rich Bickle was looking forward to a vacation in Mexico this week, away from the rigors of NASCAR racing. "I was all set to leave Tuesday morning,"...

MOORESVILLE, NC (April 4, 2000) - With the tickets in hand and his bags already packed, Rich Bickle was looking forward to a vacation in Mexico this week, away from the rigors of NASCAR racing. "I was all set to leave Tuesday morning," said Bickle, who instead will be behind the wheel of the #60 Power Team Chevrolet when the green flag falls on the Goody Body Pain 500 NASCAR Winston Cup event at Martinsville (VA) Speedway Sunday. "Joe Bessey called Monday morning to see if I would be interested in driving the car this weekend. Initially, it was like 'oh man, I don't want to do that. It'll mess up my vacation.' Fortunately, it didn't take long to come to my senses and accept his offer. Joe's got a great team, capable of running up front and winning at Martinsville. That, and the fact that it is Martinsville, was all it took for me to say yes." The selection of Bickle to steer the Power Team mount at Martinsville is a natural one. Unlike most drivers, Bickle loves the tight, .526-mile Martinsville oval. His Winston Cup career best, a fourth-place effort, came at Martinsville in 1998. A year earlier, Bickle scored a dominating win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at the historic track and also won a NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series pole position there in 1995. If there's a knack to getting around Martinsville, Bickle seemed to have found it. "I have to admit, Martinsville is one of my favorite tracks," said Bickle, who shunned several Winston Cup and Truck Series offers this season so he could field his own NASCAR Busch Series team. "I'm not sure why it's one of my favorites other than I always seem to do well there. The track reminds me a lot of Lake Geneva Raceway back home in Wisconsin. It's flat and tight just like Martinsville. I always did well there and I guess that's carried over to Martinsville for me." The Power Team ride comes at a good time for the 38-year-old Bickle as his entrance into the Busch Series owner/driver ranks has been anything but a smooth transition. So far, his Bickle/Smith Motorsports effort has failed to qualify for three of the four races it has entered this season. Last weekend, Bickle was well up in the practice sheets for the NBS race at Texas Motor Speedway when he cut down a tire and destroyed his primary car. Despite a valiant effort from the team, Bickle was unable to get the back-up car into the show. "To say I'm frustrated a little is an understatement," said Bickle. "The cut tire last weekend was like the final straw. That's why I scheduled a vacation, to try to get away from it and gain a little perspective. I never thought this Busch thing was going to be this tough. It's harder to qualify for one of those races than it is for a Winston Cup race. Add in we're a new team and that makes it just that much tougher. Lucky for us we have two really great sponsors in Aqua Velva and Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits. They've told us they understand our growing pains and are behind us 100 percent. That means a lot right now and even though they won't be on the #60 Cup car at Martinsville this weekend, they'll be riding with us just the same." So, what exactly is the key to finding the fast way around Martinsville? "If I told you that, I'd have to kill you," joked Bickle. "Seriously, Martinsville is one of those slower is faster race tracks. In terms of speed, Martinsville is the slowest track on the circuit. If you charge the car into the corners there, you're going to push up in the middle and off the corner. You're also going to kill the brakes and saving the brakes is a real key to finishing well at Martinsville. You have to get out of the gas early and roll the car into the corners at Martinsville. You have to slow yourself down mentally lap after lap. As a driver, you are programmed to always be charging. It's hard to get that out of your head and maybe that's why a lot of drivers have trouble adapting to Martinsville." Bickle is the third driver to pilot the Power Team Chevy this year in the absence of regular driver Geoffrey Bodine. Ted Musgrave and Dick Trickle have taken turns in the seat since Bodine was injured in a violent NCTS wreck in the season-opening event at Daytona Beach, FL. "You always hate to take a seat for a guy that got hurt because nobody wants to see that," said Bickle. "My deal is for Martinsville only. I'm hearing Geoffrey is ahead of schedule on his recovery and is planning on being back in the seat before the end of the month. That would be great as far as I'm concerned. I'm really pulling for him. Besides, my Busch deal is going to be doing several tests this month before we crank back up at Charlotte in May. We've got a lot of work to do to be able to win the pole like we did for the Busch race at Charlotte in 1995. If Joe wants me to run the #60 car in some other Cup races between Martinsville and when Geoffrey comes back, I'll certainly try to help out. Somewhere along the line, I'd also like to try to reschedule my vacation, but that will have to take a back seat at least for this weekend." The Goodys Body Pain 500 will open with practice and qualifying Friday, April 8. Sunday's 500-lap event will take the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Time and will be telecast live on ESPN. "This will be a great opportunity for me," said Bickle. "With all the races we've missed, I know a lot of people are wondering what the heck is going on with me and my Busch deal. A great showing at Martinsville will send a message that there's nothing wrong with Rich Bickle. Just because I have a new Busch team that's having a little trouble initially finding it's way doesn't mean I've lost it or forgotten how to drive. I've heard the whispers about what a mistake I've made trying to do my own deal. Driving the #60 Power Team car this weekend is a great opportunity for me to send a loud and clear message to everyone that it wasn't a mistake. I'm still here and I can still drive. I'm planning on showing that this weekend at Martinsville and the rest of the season in the #91 Aqua Velva/Popeyes Busch car."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rich Bickle , Geoffrey Bodine , Ted Musgrave