ATLANTA- Take one look at the career statistics of Mike "Magic Shoes" McLaughlin and you will notice one thing is missing, A NASCAR Busch Series championship. McLaughlin has that accomplishment on the top of his list of goals for the 1999-racing...
ATLANTA- Take one look at the career statistics of Mike "Magic Shoes" McLaughlin and you will notice one thing is missing, A NASCAR Busch Series championship. McLaughlin has that accomplishment on the top of his list of goals for the 1999-racing season. McLaughlin continued his pursuit with round four of the Busch Series Championship race Saturday in Atlanta. McLaughlin entered the Yellow Freight 300 in 5th position and exited in 3rd place, within striking distance of leader Mark Martin.
McLaughlin and the Goulds Pumps Racing team headed south for the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Thursday with all eyes focused on another solid race. McLaughlin started the weekend off on a high note with a 5th place qualifying run, his third top-five starting spot in four races. The Goulds Pumps team then turned its attention to a full day of practice on Friday and the race on Saturday.
Race day arrived with a cold front and a chance of rain. Unlike last year, the rain held off and the racing action began on time. With a visit to the Goulds Pumps hospitality area behind him, McLaughlin was now ready to attack the ultra-fast 1.5-mile superspeedway. Following a last minute strategy session with crew chief Jay Smith, the Waterloo, NY native strapped into the #34 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The green flag waved over the field of 43 drivers signaling the start racing action. McLaughlin held his own for the first ten laps before calling into the crew via radio, a problem with the cars oil and water temperatures. The car was overheating and McLaughlin needed a caution fast for adjustments. McLaughlin faded back to 9th place, trying to create more airflow into his engine to cool the temperatures. Finally on lap 36, the break came, caution for an accident. McLaughlin entered pit road for 4 tires, gasoline and the removal of tape on the grill of the car. The tape removal allowed for more airflow and in turn lowered the temperatures of his engine. Now McLaughlin could return to racing hard once again.
For the remainder of the race, McLaughlin spent time in the top-ten, trading spots with drivers on nearly every lap. McLaughlin managed to miss the biggest wreck of the day on lap 134. The accident eliminated many cars and sent two drivers, Wayne Grubb and Dick Trickle to the hospital for x-rays. Although McLaughlin missed the spinning cars, he did manage to bang up the front air dam of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo while plowing through the frontstretch grass. Later on in the race, this affected the airflow and caused McLaughlin to fade from 6th place to 12th over the final 50 laps. Despite being in 12th place when the checkered flag waved, McLaughlin was credited with 11th place on Sunday morning when race winner Mike Skinner's car failed to pass post-race technical inspection.
"Our car was really good on fresh tires, but as soon as the tires began to give-away, we would fade," McLaughlin said. "I would have liked to have finished in the top-ten, but we will take the 11th place finish and move to Darlington with all our focus on winning the race."
Dave Blaney was credited with the win following the disqualification of Skinner.
The Busch Series heads to Darlington for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on Saturday at 1:00pm EST. ESPN will provide tape-delayed coverage at 5:30pm on Saturday and Motor Racing Network will provide live radio coverage. Last Darlington race, McLaughlin grabbed the pole position.