BUSCH: Madison: Hank Parker Jr race notes

Controversial call gives GNC Live Well Racing a 16th-place result -no. 36 finishes one lap down at Gateway International Raceway- MADISON, Ill. (July 20) - The members of the GNC Live Well Racing team were left disappointed and angry after a ...

Controversial call gives GNC Live Well Racing a 16th-place result -no. 36 finishes one lap down at Gateway International Raceway-

MADISON, Ill. (July 20) - The members of the GNC Live Well Racing team were left disappointed and angry after a 16th-place finish in Saturday's Charter Pipeline 250 NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) event at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.

After a round of green-flag pit stops resulted in the No. 36 GNC Live Well Dodge Intrepid going a lap down to the race leaders just before the halfway point of the 200-lap event, driver Hank Parker Jr. was determined to get back on the lead lap.

When NASCAR called a caution period for a spin involving Scott Wimmer on lap 91, Parker saw his opportunity. Spotter Dan Cagle told Parker the flagman had not waved the yellow caution flag before the No. 36 passed beneath the flag stand. This led the team to believe that Parker had not received the caution flag, which meant that he could still pass for position. Cagle told Parker to pass race leader Johnny Sauter before he got back to the start/finish line, which would put the No. 36 back on the lead lap.

Parker passed Sauter in time, only to have NASCAR rule that the No. 36 had received the caution flag, leaving the GNC Live Well Racing team one lap down to the race leaders.

Crew chief Gary Cogswell pled his case to the NASCAR official assigned to the No. 36 pit stall, to no avail. Parker was told to line up behind the No. 59 of Stacy Compton, the first car shown a lap down.

"We really feel like we got a raw deal on that call," Cogswell said after the event. "NASCAR told us that, as soon as the flagman touches the yellow flag, the caution flag is considered to be out. They're saying the flagman doesn't have to have the flag out and waving for it to count. It's always been my experience that, if you don't see the flag waving, you haven't received the caution flag yet. To me, this is an inconsistent call, but there's not much use in complaining about it. The decision has been made, even though we think it's the wrong decision."

After climbing from his car at the end of the event, Parker headed to the NBS trailer to talk with NASCAR officials about the call.

"I wanted to tell my side of the story, and I definitely wanted to hear their side," Parker said. "They explained their thinking to me, but I still don't understand it. I told them I feel like they make inconsistent calls in some situations, and this was one of those situations. It's frustrating. To me, if I didn't see the yellow flag waving when I passed the flag stand, then I didn't get the caution yet. That's the way it's always been. I didn't get any satisfaction by talking to them, but I at least got to get some things off my chest."

The GNC Live Well crew had a strong car all weekend at Gateway International Raceway, but the odds were stacked against them from the start.

After turning the third-fastest lap during first practice on Friday, Parker and his crew felt they had a legitimate shot at the pole position. A late qualifying draw meant that Parker would make his qualifying run in the cooler evening air, which usually translates into faster lap times.

As Parker waited his turn, Ron Young took to the track for his qualifying run. Immediately, smoke began to billow from Young's entry, indicating he was losing oil. NASCAR waved Young off the track, but oil had already been dropped on the race surface.

The track surface was still not optimal following the cleanup efforts. Parker, the driver following Young, was unable to match his practice speed of earlier in the day on the slippery surface. His qualifying effort was good enough for the 29th starting spot.

"It was one of those 'oh no, here we go again' moments," Parker said. "We were all pumped up about being third-fast in practice, thinking we might be able to put our Dodge on the front row. As soon as I saw Ron (Young) come off turn four with his car smoking, I knew it was all over. I watched our chance at a pole sprout wings and fly away. It's a perfect example of the kind of stuff that has bitten this team all year. Just when we think something good is about to happen, the rug gets yanked out from under us."

In spite of his disappointment over his mediocre qualifying run, Parker backed up his first practice speed by turning the fourth-fastest lap time of the final practice on Friday evening.

When the green flag fell on Saturday's race, Parker immediately showed that his car was a contender, picking up five spots on the first lap.

By lap 27, the No. 36 was being shown in 16th position. On lap 71, Parker bypassed the No. 7 of Randy LaJoie to assume the 12th position. After his green-flag pit stop on lap 79, Parker fell back to 23rd position, one-lap down. Following the lap 91-97 caution period, Parker was able to match lap times with the leaders, tucking in behind the third-place car of Kevin Grubb for a number of laps. From there, the No. 36 climbed as high as 14th before claiming the 16th-place result.

"What makes our finish even more frustrating is the fact that we could run with the leaders," Parker said. "Had we gotten our lap back, there's no doubt that we had something for (Ron) Hornaday and (race winner) Biffle. It's another one of those 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' days. We've had a lot of those days this year."

The finish pushed Parker up two spots to 16th in the NBS Drivers' Points Standings.

While the rest of the team headed back to North Carolina, Rod Bussard, the transport driver for the No. 36 team, pointed his rig towards Colorado and the next stop on the NBS tour. Team Jesel used a second transporter to bring the car Parker will be using at Pike's Peak International Raceway (PPIR) to Gateway. On Saturday, the crew swapped cars out from one transporter to the other, which kept Bussard from having to return to the team shops in North Carolina.

The NetZero 250 NBS event will air live from Pike's Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo., on NBC and MRN, Saturday, July 27, at 3:30 p.m. EDT.


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Drivers Hank Parker Jr. , Stacy Compton , Kevin Grubb , Johnny Sauter , Scott Wimmer , Ron Young