BUSCH: Bickle Slinger Nationals review

SLINGER, WI (July 31, 2000) - After two track championships and a pair of Miller Nationals titles, Rich Bickle knows Slinger Speedway like the back of his hand. In Sunday's 2000 version of the Nationals, the famed Slinger quarter-mile...

SLINGER, WI (July 31, 2000) - After two track championships and a pair of Miller Nationals titles, Rich Bickle knows Slinger Speedway like the back of his hand. In Sunday's 2000 version of the Nationals, the famed Slinger quarter-mile oval gave Bickle a backhand of it's own. "Man, that was a pretty hard hit," said Bickle after being involved in a wild wreck on Lap 122 of the 200-circuit event. "One second, I'm on the inside of a guy passing him for fifth and the next he's turning me up into the wall. I can't remember the last time I wrecked two nights in a row." Bickle was at Slinger to compete in the Nationals against some of the finest short-track Late Model drivers in the country. Also in the field were top NASCAR stars Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader, Dick Trickle and Jason Schuler. Bruised and sore from a hard crash the night before in the CarQuest 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, Bickle was considered to be one of the favorites to win the Nationals Sunday night. "I love this place," said Bickle of the Slinger track. "It's like Bristol, only a quarter-mile instead of a half. This is really racing here. It's fast, it's tight, and you really have to be on your toes." Driving the #18 Pathfinder Chassis Chevrolet fielded by Kevin Laatsch, Bickle found the practice session an exercise in frustration first burning off a plug wire and then breaking a rocker arm in the engine. An extended repair to the powerplant robbed Bickle of any meaningful practice time. Bickle's experience at Slinger allowed him to make an educated guess at a qualifying set up and the Edgerton, WI native clocked in with a fast lap of 11.72 seconds, good enough for 14th position in the main event. "Getting around a quarter-mile track in a 2800-pound car in 11 second is really a rush," said Bickle, noting fast time for the event was an 11.49-second clocking. "Think about it - I turn a lap in the 11-second bracket and I'm only 14th overall. It's going to be one hell of a show for the fans." The fans proved their mettle as well, riding out nearly three hours of rain that delayed the start of the race. Once underway, their patience was rewarded as Bickle put on a show racing into the Top-10 in the first 30 laps. With young Brad Mueller in tow, Bickle continued his march through the field winding up in the eighth position when the race slowed for a 10-minute pit stop break on Lap 101. "I was just holding on in the first segment," said Bickle. "I was all over the place because the car just wasn't handling right. Brad got by me with just a couple of laps in the segment and my spotter told me to just ride it out and we'd make the right changes at the break." Bickle did just that and was obviously the fastest car in the early stages of the final 100-lap segment. At the drop of the green, Bickle quickly worked his way past Mueller and Cindy Peterson before challenging Eric Franzen for the fifth spot. "He didn't want me to pass him, that's for sure," said Bickle of Franzen. "I tried him on the outside and he pinched me up into the wall. Then, I tried him on the inside and he chopped down on me. I finally got a run on him coming off Turn 4 and was by him when he turned down left and right into my right rear quarter panel. That turned me right up into the wall and I hit driver's side flush into the concrete. That's the way guys get badly hurt. "I was already sore from the wreck the night before and I'm sure I'll be even more sore tomorrow after this," Bickle continued. "Right now, I'm more disappointed than anything. We made all the right changes at the break and the guys up front didn't. I was coming in a hurry and they were backing up to me. It was candy for the taking. I was going to drive by and away from them. Instead, Kevin's got a wrecked race car and we finished 15th, all because one guy didn't want to get passed or race clean." Lowell Bennett won the event, nipping Mueller by less than a foot at the finish. Conrad Morgan was third, one-car length behind in one of the closest finishes in Nationals history. Next up for Bickle will be a NASCAR Winston Cup test, this one in the #61 Xpress Motorsports entry in the Brickyard 400 entry at Indianpolis Motor Speedway. The Saturday, August 5 event will take the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Time and will be telecast live on ABC television. The event will also be broadcast on MRN Radio. "I'm really looking forward to going back to Indy," said Bickle. "I love racing at the Speedway, there's so much tradition there. To say you raced in the Brickyard is something anyone who has ever driven a racecar would like to say. This will be my fifth Brickyard 400 and I'd like nothing better than to have a great run in the IWX Chevrolet. Dave Fuge and the guys have worked really hard to give me a good car and Steve Coulter has stepped up with the funding to make it possible to run up front. We tested pretty good and the team has made some changes in the body and the engine that will make us even better on raceday. Some people might be surprised if we have a great run, but we won't be."

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY , Stock car
Drivers Rich Bickle , Dick Trickle , Ken Schrader , Kenny Wallace , Jason Schuler