Skinner savors first top-five finish Dave Rodman LOUDON, N.H. (July 12, 1998) Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner has heard the branch-hanging ghouls forecasting his demise with the Richard Childress Racing ...
Skinner savors first top-five finish Dave Rodman
LOUDON, N.H. (July 12, 1998) Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner has heard the branch-hanging ghouls forecasting his demise with the Richard Childress Racing organization for the better part of a NASCAR Winston Cup Series season that's only reached its halfway point -- but Skinner silenced some of the critics with the first top-five finish of his 60-race series career Sunday in the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Skinner, who had led only a single lap all season in the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet, and that in the season-opening Daytona 500, led twice Sunday and tripled his total for the year. Since that total is only three laps, it was much more important that he finished fifth.
"I've been racing all year with a gun to my head -- maybe this will get the trigger cocked back a bit, anyway," said Skinner, who has remained genial through all the physical and accompanying mental anguish. "Doggone it, I took about a third-place car and finished fifth with it, but that's all right."
Skinner credited his crew with keeping him in the hunt all day, which included two long sojourns in second place.
"My hat's off to the team (because) these guys have done a great job," said Skinner, who started the season with a bang in the Daytona 500 by finishing eighth, but who has missed three races due to injuries suffered in no less than three grinding crashes in the first two months of the season. "The pit crew has been like this all year and we haven't given them the opportunity to show what they can do. We got the opportunity today."
Skinner and teammate Dale Earnhardt's qualifying performances had picked up since team owner Richard Childress had reversed the roles of their crew chiefs prior to the Miller Lite 400 on June 14 at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn. Skinner qualified 12th for the Jiffy Lube 300.
"Maybe he's not 100 percent (physically) yet, but he's going to get there," said Skinner's crew chief Larry McReynolds, who swapped roles with teammate Kevin Hamlin in June. "I saw a lot of bounce in his step this entire weekend from qualifying ... coming into this morning.
"I know he won Suzuka (Thunder Special NASCAR exhibition race in Japan last November) but this is the real world here. Hopefully this will set the momentum going. I feel pretty good about where we are after the first four races. We still have a lot of work to do since the 24 car (point leader Jeff Gordon) is our benchmark and he is awfully good.
"Mike really does an awfully good job giving input on the race car and this is the first time, taking Daytona and Talladega out of the equation, where I felt this morning like we had a shot at winning the race."
"We're getting better all the time," said Skinner, who has persevered through neck, rib and leg injuries, among others and who, despite all the doomsayers, is reportedly under contract for the rest of this year with options through the year 2000. "We're just now getting to where I can work out again. It's hard to work out when you're in such pain all the time. I've still got a lot of neck pain but we're getting better.
"I want to thank everyone who has hung in there with us. It takes a lot of patience in this business. We need a couple more of these this year and we'll get 'em. We'll come back to this place and maybe we'll get the right set of tires. We had and awful good set the second or third set and that thing was a rocket ship."
The Pennsylvania 500 on July 26 at Pocono Raceway might be a good place for his next race. He qualified 11th and finished sixth in that event last season, on his way to the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award.
Source: NASCAR Online