BUSCH: Nashville II: Hank Parker Jr. race report

GNC Live Well Racing battles to top-10 in Nashville. LEBANON, Tenn. (June 10) - Hank Parker Jr. and the crew of the No. 36 GNC Live Well Dodge scored their fourth top-10 finish of the season at Nashville Superspeedway Saturday night. Parker's...

GNC Live Well Racing battles to top-10 in Nashville.

LEBANON, Tenn. (June 10) - Hank Parker Jr. and the crew of the No. 36 GNC Live Well Dodge scored their fourth top-10 finish of the season at Nashville Superspeedway Saturday night.

Parker's day combined a loose handling condition and exciting side-by-side action. By the end of the evening, Parker had claimed an eighth-place finish in the Inside Traxx 300 presented by MET-Rx NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) race. The first-time winner of the event was Jack Sprague.

"We had about a 14th-place car tonight and brought it home in the top-10, so I'm pretty happy with the finish," Parker said. "We made a couple of changes after happy hour that didn't work out for us. The car was really, really loose all night. The crew kept working to make it better for me, though. They gave me great pit stops. I stayed out of trouble and brought the car home in one piece, which is more than we did last time. It was a good night."

After starting 17th, Parker steered a strong No. 36 Dodge into the top 10 after he passed Scott Riggs on lap 16.

Almost immediately after that, Parker began to complain about the loose-handling condition of the No. 36 Dodge. Parker told crew chief Gary Cogswell the car just didn't have much grip on the concrete surface of the Nashville Superspeedway, and he fought to maintain his top-10 position. On lap 41, Kevin Grubb and Scott Riggs passed Parker, knocking him back to 11th place.

When Kevin Grubb spun on lap 62 to bring out the caution flag, Cogswell told his driver to come in for service. The team made a tire pressure and wedge adjustment on Parker's machine, and they also filled the fuel cell and bolted on four fresh Goodyear Eagles before sending him back out.

After restarting the race in eighth place, Parker moved up to sixth after a Mike McLaughlin spin brought out the second caution flag of the event on lap 72.

Shortly after the lap 75 restart, Parker battled Todd Bodine for position. Their side-by-side racing allowed Scott Wimmer, Scott Riggs and Shane Hmiel to close in and eventually shuffle Parker back to 10th.

Not content to stay there, Parker began to challenge Hmiel for ninth place. The friends raced neck and neck around the 1.33-mile superspeedway for a number of laps before Parker could finally wrestle the position away from Hmiel on lap 93.

By this time, Bodine was again on Parker's bumper. The presence of the No. 92 behind the GNC Live Well Dodge only aggravated the car's loose condition. A few laps later, Parker found himself in the middle of a three-wide pack with Bodine and Jay Sauter on lap 105.

Unable to hold off Bodine's charge, Parker dropped back to the 11th position. Kenny Wallace then passed Parker, moving the No. 36 back to 12th.

Ashton Lewis' accident around lap 111 gave the GNC crew another opportunity to make adjustments to the car. Pitting on lap 113, the GNC team went to work. Rear tire changer Ira Joe Hussey pulled a spring rubber out of the right rear of the No. 36 while gasman Art Harris made another wedge adjustment. With four fresh tires and a full fuel cell, the No. 36 returned to the race in 11th place for the lap 119 restart.

Parker passed Bodine to take over 10th place on lap 126, but the Winston Cup veteran was not done with Parker. Just two laps later, Bodine's car was back in Parker's rearview mirror, challenging for the 10th spot.

After relinquishing the position to Bodine, Parker told Cogswell that, in spite of the adjustments made during pit stops, the No. 36 continued to get extremely loose whenever another car was behind it.

A spin by Dan Pardus allowed the GNC Live Well team to make another pit stop under caution. Yet another air pressure adjustment and wedge adjustment was made to the No. 36 to try and tighten the car's handling.

After caution periods brought on by separate accidents involving the No. 56 of Dick Mitchell and Tony Raines slowed the event, Parker was being shown in eighth position by lap 193.

Scott Riggs' accident on lap 203 marked the final caution of the race. The subsequent restart bunched up the field of competitors, allowing Shane Hmiel to get a run on Parker and pass him for eighth position on lap 214.

With the laps winding down, Parker set his sights on passing Hmiel again. The two drivers again battled side-by-side on the concrete banking for a number of circuits before Parker put Hmiel behind him for good four laps from the finish.

"I had a blast racing Shane all night," Parker said. "We raced each other clean, but neither one of us gave an inch. That's when it's the most fun, when it's neck and neck like that. You have to wait until one guy makes a mistake before you can get around him. That's Saturday night racing. He showed a lot of patience out there. I knew he could drive, but he really impressed me tonight."

The finish allowed Parker to move up one spot to 12th in the NBS Drivers' Points Standings.

While the team headed home, its car did not make the trip. NASCAR officials loaded the No. 36 GNC Live Well Dodge Intrepid, along with a Ford, Chevy and a Pontiac, on to haulers for a trip to the wind tunnel. NASCAR will be measuring, among other things, how much downforce each body style produces. These test sessions are something the sanctioning body performs several times a year.

"I believe they'll find the Dodges need some help," crew chief Gary Cogswell said. "We could definitely use a break on our spoiler heights at Daytona and Talladega. We'll see what they have to say when the test is over, I guess. It's hard to really lobby for changes when Welliver-Jesel Motorsports (owner of Parker's No. 36 and the No. 66 of Casey Mears) is the only team running the Dodge full-time in the Busch Series. It would be nice to have four or five Dodge teams all pushing for some changes. There's strength in numbers, and we don't have the numbers."

The GNC Live Well team now turns its attention to the Kroger 300, presented by Oreo, at Kentucky Speedway. The 16th race of season will mark the last of 11 consecutive weekends of NBS competition.

The Kroger 300 will air live on FX Network and MRN affiliates on Saturday, June 15. Coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

-wjm-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Todd Bodine , Kenny Wallace , Hank Parker Jr. , Jay Sauter , Casey Mears , Mike McLaughlin , Tony Raines , Jack Sprague , Kevin Grubb , Scott Riggs , Shane Hmiel , Scott Wimmer , Ashton Lewis