By Dave Rodman HARRISBURG, N.C. (March 31, 1998) Rich Bickle, who chased champion Jack Sprague to the final event of the season before losing the 1997 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title, will return to the series in this ...
By Dave Rodman HARRISBURG, N.C. (March 31, 1998)
Rich Bickle, who chased champion Jack Sprague to the final event of the season before losing the 1997 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title, will return to the series in this weekend's Florida Dodge Dealers 400K at Miami-Dade Homestead Motor Sports Complex.
Bickle has been hired by Tyler Jet MotorSports -- formerly Darrell Waltrip Motorsports -- and owner Tim Beverley to drive the team's No. 17 Chevrolet this weekend. He'll be driving the same Sears DieHard Chevrolet he used in his last NCTS victory.
"We're coming back in Sears DieHard colors," said Joe Carver, spokesman for the team purchased last week by Beverley, a jet aircraft dealer from Tyler, Texas. "It may not be long term, but right now they're with us and we're glad to be back."
Carver said the team has five race-ready Chevrolet trucks and that crew chief Dave McCarty and Fred Wanke, along with a core group of the unit who engineered three race wins and three Bud Poles for Bickle in 1997, would crew the effort. Bickle said he was thrilled that the opportunity to rejoin his former team had cropped up. For him, though, it's a one-race deal at this point.
"I'm going to go down to Homestead and help 'em out," said Bickle. "I really don't know what will happen beyond that. I haven't met him (Beverley) yet, so basically I'm going to Homestead and running one race to help out a new team."
"Right now it's undetermined what we're going to do," Carver said of the team's future plans. "We think we'd like to do the whole deal (full season) and that's where the owner would like to go. We're just going to see how it goes and then see if it's going to work."
Beverley purchased Waltrip's entire operation last Thursday and the announcement of TJ MotorSports was made on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The team made the decision to change its name Tuesday morning. The truck phase of the operation was shelved by Waltrip after the season finale last season when Sears DieHard decided to reallocate its motorsports funding.
Carver said "about 100" interested buyers had shopped the team before Beverley purchased the extensive facility. With the NASCAR Winston Cup team taking time off to regroup and seek sponsorship, Beverley quickly decided to go truck racing.
For his part Bickle, who is currently without a full-time driving job, was happy to be heading south with a definite gig.
"It's kind of ironic," he said, shaking his head. "I was just going to take a seat and head down to Homestead and get into somebody's truck, like I did in Orlando.
"This is great. My seat was still in the truck. I'm really looking forward to getting back together with the guys and I'm real glad they chose the truck they did. We won with it at Martinsville and it's a real good truck."
Bickle scored a top-10 finish in the Chevy Trucks Challenge at Walt Disney World Speedway in the season opener when he replaced Cintas Rookie candidate Dominic Dobson in the MCI Dodge. Although he's currently unemployed, he said he's been busy.
"We've put together a 20,000-square-foot building, we're building some Busch cars and we've got a truck of our own," he said of the Bickle-Smith Motorsports complex in Mooresville, N.C. "We plan to debut the Busch car at Charlotte and we've got quite a few other things working."
Bickle attempted to make the field for the Stihl 300 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race at Atlanta Motor Speedway after a late deal was put together with race sponsor Stihl Outdoor Power Tools. Bud Pole Qualifying was rained out, ruining the effort, but the race itself was canceled and rescheduled for November.
Source: NASCAR Online