BUSCH: Memphis: Hank Parker Jr race report

Rain, sore shoulder san't slow Parker and GNC Racing in Memphis. MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Oct. 20) - Hank Parker Jr. and the No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team scored a fourth-place finish in the rain-delayed Sam's Town 250 NASCAR Busch Series (NBS)...

Rain, sore shoulder san't slow Parker and GNC Racing in Memphis.

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Oct. 20) - Hank Parker Jr. and the No. 36 GNC Live Well Racing team scored a fourth-place finish in the rain-delayed Sam's Town 250 NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) race at Memphis Motorsports Park on Sunday.

Parker battled his way from a 17th-place starting spot to claim his second top-five finish of the 2002 season. Making the finish more impressive is the fact that Parker was dealing with the lingering effects of a sprained shoulder suffered in a crash at Lowe's Motor Speedway just more a week ago.

"We had a great car today, and the crew gave us some great pit stops," Parker said after climbing from his car. "The shoulder's sore, but the car was running so good, I really wasn't thinking about the shoulder too much. Having a good run is the best painkiller I know of."

In the early laps of the event, Parker fought a tight handling condition on his GNC Dodge Intrepid. By the time a caution flag came out around lap 44, Parker had slid back to 25th on the leaderboard.

Crew chief Gary Cogswell told Parker to bring the car to pit road for service. The GNC crew pulled a spring rubber out of the right rear of the car and made tire pressure adjustments to alleviate the tight condition before sending Parker back out with four fresh tires and a full load of fuel in his car.

A number of other teams elected not to pit during the caution period, which put Parker deep in the field on the restart. The pit strategy worked in the GNC team's favor, when the cars of Randy LaJoie and Jay Sauter collided, resulting in another caution around lap 56. Parker stayed on the track as a number of the frontrunners came in for pit stops, which shuffled the No. 36 entry up to fifth place by the lap 61 restart.

When the race returned to green flag conditions, Parker and Jamie McMurray raced hard for the fourth position with Parker claiming the spot on lap 69. Two laps later, Parker found his way to third before a caution for debris came out on lap 71.

Following the restart, Parker passed David Reutimann to claim second. Ron Hornaday passed Parker a few laps later, pushing the No. 36 team back to third.

On lap 101, Greg Biffle, who had the fastest car on the track for much of the day, claimed the third position from Parker. Racing three-wide at times, Johnny Sauter got around Parker's machine to move him back to fifth by lap 115.

When a caution came out for a wreck involving several cars, it was time for Parker to bring his GNC Live Well entry back in for service. The crew again changed four tires and filled the fuel cell of Parker's machine. Another air pressure adjustment was made to try and free up the handling on the GNC Dodge.

On the lap 128 restart, Parker was shown in 13th position. Lapped traffic in the path of Parker's car allowed several competitors to get by, but by lap 152, Parker had dispensed with the lapped cars and taken over 10th.

A spin by Mark Green brought out yet another caution period, and the frontrunners elected to come in for fresh tires and fuel. Parker, on a different pit sequence than the leaders, again stayed on the track and took over the third position.

By lap 182, Greg Biffle had worked his way through traffic again to drop Parker back to fifth. It appeared that Biffle had the race well in hand, until contact with another car sent Biffle's No. 60 into the outside retaining wall around lap 202.

The caution period that followed was a huge break for the members of the GNC team. Crewman Dennis Chamberlain had calculated that Parker would have to pit for fuel before the end of the race, while MRN radio was reporting that none of the other frontrunners would have to stop again.

The caution period allowed Parker to take on fresh tires and fuel without losing too much precious track position. Restarting the event in 12th place, Parker battled lapped traffic and other cars for position, including several laps of three-wide racing. By lap 229, Parker had picked his way through the field to take over ninth place from Shane Hmiel.

Parker next set his sights on the eighth-place machine of David Reutimann. On several occasions, Parker got the nose of his Dodge underneath the right rear quarter panel of Reutimann's No. 87 machine, only to have Reutimann appear to "pinch" Parker off and slam the door on Parker's attempted pass.

As Parker continued to work on Reutimann, he inadvertently made contact with the rear of Reutimann's machine, sending the No. 87 sliding into the outside retaining wall. The accident set off a chain reaction crash that eventually collected some six cars.

"I didn't mean to wreck David," Parker said of the incident. "I was obviously faster than him and was just trying to get around him. I had worked on him for a couple of laps. I don't know why he didn't just let me go. I like David, and I wouldn't intentionally take him out. Some of his guys were pretty hot with me after the race, but they should know that's not the way I operate. I'm sorry it happened."

Parker says the caution actually hurt his chances of winning the race.

"I wanted it to go green," Parker said. "A lot of the guys ahead of me were on older tires, or only took on two tires on that last stop. I was picking them off fairly quickly, and I think I had a shot at getting to the leaders, had the race stayed under green. I didn't want to see a caution, much less cause one."

With less than 10 laps remaining, the 15 lead lap cars were able to line up single-file for the finish. Parker again began to methodically pick off the competition after the race restarted on lap 242, working his way to fifth before Johnny Sauter spun to bring out the final caution.

While waiting for the final restart, Parker told his crew something was broken on his Dodge Intrepid. He could hear a strange sound coming from underneath the car whenever he would press the gas pedal. Crew chief Gary Cogswell urged Parker to stay focused and get the best finish he could.

On the final two laps, Parker did everything he could to remain in fourth position. As he entered turn three on the final lap, Parker felt something under his car break.

"It gave up the ghost right as I went into three," Parker said. "I'm very surprised Kerry (Earnhardt) didn't get by me. I'm very happy to come home in fourth, but I do think we missed shot at the win. I'm proud of the guys on this team, and I'm grateful that I was able to finish the race. My shoulder's sore right now, but it's a good sore."

With the finish, Parker remains 14th in the standings as he and his team head to Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) for the 31st race on the NBS schedule.

The Aaron's 312 will air live from AMS on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 1 p.m. EDT on TNT and PRN (Performance Racing Network) affiliates.

-jm-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Greg Biffle , Hank Parker Jr. , Jay Sauter , Jamie McMurray , Mark Green , Shane Hmiel , Johnny Sauter , David Reutimann