BUSCH: Madison: Hank Parker Jr preview

EVENT INFORMATION - Event: NASCAR Busch Series Charter Pipeline 250; Time and Date: 7 p.m. EDT, Saturday, July 20; Site: Gateway International Speedway, Madison, Ill.; Live Coverage: TNT Network (television) at 8 p.m. EDT and MRN (radio) at 7:30...

EVENT INFORMATION - Event: NASCAR Busch Series Charter Pipeline 250; Time and Date: 7 p.m. EDT, Saturday, July 20; Site: Gateway International Speedway, Madison, Ill.; Live Coverage: TNT Network (television) at 8 p.m. EDT and MRN (radio) at 7:30 p.m. EDT; Qualifying: 7 p.m. EDT, Friday, July 19; Happy Hour: Saturday, July 20, 1 p.m. EDT.

LAST RACE (Tropicana Twister 300 presented by Sam's Club) - Hank Parker Jr. and the No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team finished 40th at Chicagoland Speedway. Parker made just 23 circuits around the 1.5-mile track before a broken engine part ended his day.

STANDINGS - Parker is 18th in the NASCAR Busch Series Drivers' Points Standings and team owner Scott Welliver holds the 21st spot in the owners' points standings.

PARKER'S HISTORY AT GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY - Hank Parker Jr.'s best finish at Gateway International Raceway was a 12th-place result in the 2000 NASCAR Busch Series event at the facility. Last year, Parker finished 36th when his engine expired with less than 40 laps remaining in the 200-lap event.

THE CAR - The No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team is bringing chassis No. 11 to Gateway International Raceway. This will mark the fourth time this season the car will be used. This chassis made its first appearance of 2002 at Nazareth Speedway, where Parker finished 24th in the Stacker 2 200. Most recently, Parker drove it to an eighth-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway and a 20th-place finish at the Milwaukee Mile three weeks ago.

RED 36, RED 36, HIKE! - Hank Parker Jr. and the members of the No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team will have a special guest in their pits during Saturday night's Charter Pipeline 250 event. Alex Sulfsted, who plays guard for the Washington Redskins in the NFL, will serve as an honorary pit crew member for the No. 36 team.

Last week, Pro Football Weekly magazine named Sulfsted one of the 10 best young offensive linemen in the NFL. Coach Steve Spurrier said of Sulfsted, "Alex combines the strength of a longshoreman, the feet of a dancer and the finesse of a safe-cracker. Ideally we'd like for him to be a backup for another year but we might have to start him because he's that good."

The Sulfsted-Parker connection came about through representatives of the two athletes, who have never met.

"We got a call that (Sulfsted) wanted to come to the race before he heads off to training camp on Sunday," Parker said. "I've always loved football, so the team and I jumped at the chance to get an NFL player in our pits for the weekend. The cool thing is, if we have a problem with our jack during the race, we'll just have him come over the wall and pick the car up for us."

OH BROTHER! - Hank Parker Jr. will tell you his favorite band is Pearl Jam, but he's recently become a huge fan of the artists featured on the soundtrack of the movie, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" Parker has added CD's by Dan Tyminski and Allison Krauss to his collection, and has developed a friendship with several executives from the Bluegrass record label, Doobie Shea Records. Parker, his wife Wendy, his brother "Catfish" and several others attended the "Down From The Mountain" concert, which features artists from the "Oh Brother" soundtrack, in Raleigh, N.C., last Sunday night.

"It was awesome," Parker said of the concert. "I'm a country boy, what can I say? I love that stuff. The talent on that stage was incredible. They didn't need a fancy light show or a bunch of fireworks and flashy outfits to keep your attention. It was just a bunch of incredible musicians and singers doing what they do best. Allison Krauss and Union Station was probably my favorite. I'd really like to see her and her band in concert after that. I know it might not be too cool in some people's eyes to like Bluegrass, but I know what I like. I like the simple things."

HANK PARKER JR. ON GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY - "I love the place. I love the configuration, and how you can run two-wide all the way around the track. You always hear people complaining about the heat, but I don't think it's really that bad. You race at night. It gets a little warm in the car during practice sessions, but I don't think it's any worse than it is at Daytona or Milwaukee. Maybe my wife and my sponsor (GNC Live Well) have just helped me get in better shape than some of these other guys. I really don't see the heat as being a factor."

ON THE CONTROVERSY AT NASHVILLE SPEEDWAY INVOLVING A WOMAN DRIVER - "I have no problem racing against a woman. If someone can drive, they deserve to be out there, period. When I was in the All Pro Series, I raced against Tammy Joe Kirk. She definitely has what it takes as a driver, plus she's a very cool person. If the only reason those guys protested after the race was the fact that (Deborah Renshaw) is a woman, they need to get a life. On the other hand, (Renshaw) is going to deal with drivers being jealous of her all the way up the ranks, so it might be in her best interest to stand her ground now and let them know she won't be intimidated.

"I don't think that not competing at that track again is the right answer, though. Get back out there and beat them fair and square. That's the way to shut them up. If she doesn't race at that track again, the other side wins. Those other drivers will have accomplished exactly what it looks like they set out to do, which was to get her off the track. I think the way for her to make a statement is to go back out there and try to lap the field."

ON HIS 2002 SEASON - "I'm very disappointed with how this season has gone. I wish I could put my finger on why we haven't performed any better than we have. My team works as hard or harder than any team in the Busch garage, but it just hasn't translated into great finishes. If you point out any race this season, I can give you a reason as to why we didn't finish in the top-10. We've had a million different things go wrong. It's never been the same problem twice.

"All I know is, I'm tired of running in the middle of the pack. I've been in this series for four years now, and I still don't think I've shown what I'm capable of as a driver. It's very frustrating when you see guys come in to the series and immediately start winning and running in the top-five and top-10 every week. No offense to those guys, but I think I'm every bit as good a driver as they are. I'm not trying to sound arrogant. I'm just confident. I feel like it's put-up or shut-up time, and I'm going to do whatever I have to do to be competitive."

2002 SEASON SUMMARY - 19 starts; 4 top-10 finishes (Talladega 4/20, Richmond 5/3, New Hampshire 5/11, Nashville 6/8); Winnings, $344,805

NASCAR BUSCH SERIES CAREER SUMMARY - 115 starts; 6 top-5 finishes; 23 top-10 finishes; Career NBS Winnings $2,307,458


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Drivers Hank Parker Jr. , Deborah Renshaw