PROBLEMS FOR TEAM AMICK FOUR LAPS FROM FINISH Watkins Glen, NY (June 28)- A remarkable run by driver Mike Bliss in the No. 35 SCANA/Powertel Chevrolet was halted less than four laps from the finish of Sunday's Lysol 200 at Watkins Glen ...
PROBLEMS FOR TEAM AMICK FOUR LAPS FROM FINISH
Watkins Glen, NY (June 28)- A remarkable run by driver Mike Bliss in the No. 35 SCANA/Powertel Chevrolet was halted less than four laps from the finish of Sunday's Lysol 200 at Watkins Glen International.
Making only his third start in a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division car, Bliss was running in third place behind Ron Fellows and Dale Earnhardt Jr. when transmission trouble ended his day on lap 78 of the 82-lap event.
Bliss' 28th place finish was a disappointing end to a strong run that saw him start 25th on the grid and climb all the way to the top-five in the closing stages of the race.
"I don't know what happened," Bliss said of the faulty transmission. "I was going to try and get by Dale Jr., but when I went to shift, it wouldn't go into any gear at all. I had no indication that something was about to break. The engine was running strong, and I was gaining a lot of ground on the backstretch. If it had all held together, I think we might have had something for those two guys at the end."
The driver of the No. 99 EXIDE Batteries Ford in the Craftsman Truck Series for Roush Racing, Bliss was making his debut in the No. 35 SCANA/Powertel Chevrolet entry of Team Amick Motorsports. The Lysol 200 is one of two races Bliss has agreed to drive in for Team Amick, with the other date being The Milwaukee Mile on July 4.
Elliott Sadler will then take over driving duties for Team Amick Motorsports for the remainder of the races, beginning July 17 at Myrtle Beach, SC.
Team Amick General Manager Barry Dodson said the entire crew was impressed with Sunday's run by Bliss, in spite of the finishing order. A former Crew Chief for Bliss in the Craftsman Truck Series, Dodson said he knew the 34-year old driver was a perfect choice to put behind the wheel at Watkins Glen.
"Mike Bliss is the man," Dodson said. "Just look at his statistics on road courses. I knew he could shock some people out here today, and I think he did. He was four laps away from having himself a top-five finish, if not a win."
In addition to driving a brand-new car that had never been tested, Bliss had to deal with a faulty radio, and damage done to his machine by another car late in the event.
"From about the tenth lap on, I could hear Barry and the spotters on the radio, but they couldn't hear me," Bliss said after the race. "I love to talk, so that was hard on me."
With his in-car microphone not working, the driver and his crew decided to improvise on communications.
"We worked out some hand signals in a hurry," said Bliss. "Fortunately, the car was handling so well, we didn't have to use them much."
The No. 35 machine also suffered front-end and right-side damage late in the race, when Bliss made contact with the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth going into turn one of the 2.45-mile course.
"I don't know what happened," Bliss said. "I just think he must not have seen me there. I hate that it happened, because Matt's a great driver. I'm just sorry that it hurt his car, since he's in the points battle for the championship."
Despite the disappointment of his transmission failing, Bliss said that he learned a lot of techniques he'll apply to the road courses he drives on in the future.
"I finally learned how to run fast at one of these places," Bliss smiled. "The Busch cars are more forgiving than the trucks are when you're driving them, so I was able to try a few more things, and learn a few tricks."
Dodson said that he and the Team Amick Motorsports crew learned a few things on Sunday as well.
"We proved to ourselves again that this team has the equipment and the personnel it takes to run up front," said Dodson. "The whole experience helped the team's morale and reminded them what can result from all the hard work they do."
The No. 35 SCANA/Powertel team returns to competition next Sunday in the Diehard 250, at The Milwaukee Mile on July 4.