BUSCH: Rich Bickle Fifth at Myrtle Beach With Assist From Petty Pit Crew

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (June17, 2000) - Rich Bickle used to give 15-year-old Adam Petty encouragement and driving tips when he piloted the ...

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (June17, 2000) - Rich Bickle used to give 15-year-old Adam Petty encouragement and driving tips when he piloted the #43 Richard Petty owned NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry in 1996. On Saturday night, Petty's NASCAR Busch Series crew returned the favor. "I really have to thank Richard Petty and everyone at Petty Enterprises," Bickle stated after driving his #91 Aqua Velva/Popeyes Chicken Pontiac to a fifth-place finish in the Myrtle Beach 250 NBS event. "Richard let Adam's pit crew guys come down here today and pit our car tonight. They did a fantastic job picking up a bunch of spots for us on both our stops. For years, my short-track car number was 45, so having Adam's guys with us was like having 45 on our car again. Everyone just misses Adam so much. He didn't make this race a year ago and I know everyone from that team was really looking forward to coming down here and doing well this year. I'd like to think our finish kind of helped Adam's team feel like they did that. We sure couldn't have done this without them." The assist from the Petty bunch boosted Bickle to his second-straight Top-5 finish after his new Bickle/Smith Motorsports NBS team failed to qualify for five of the first six races it attended this season. Bickle got his season back on track at South Boston, VA a week ago with a fifth-place effort. A winner of more than 250 short-track main events in his career, Bickle then did the same on the .538-mile Myrtle Beach oval this weekend. The run to the front proved to be a lengthy one for the 39-year-old Edgerton, WI driver as he qualified 29th in the 43-car field. "We probably should have had a couple of more pounds of air pressure in the right side tires in qualifying," Bickle stated. "That, and we went out pretty early in the qualifying session. It was really hot and by the time the guys late in the draw went it had cooled down a couple of degrees. That doesn't seem like much, but it makes a big difference. We knew we had a much better car than 29th because we raced up to, passed, and drove away from Jeff Green late in the practice session. He was the class of the field all day and we knew if we could run with him, we had something special." Bickle methodically worked his way through the pack in the early stages of the race. By Lap 60 of the 250-circuit event, he had moved into the Top-20. A lightning-quick pit stop on Lap 71 for four tires and fuel picked up four more spots. Carefully choosing his spots to pass and missing the carnage of the seven cautions that plagued the event, Bickle moved into the Top-10 with just over 100 laps remaining. Bickle steered his Aqua Velva mount up to seventh and on to pit road for the final time on Lap 200 for fresh rubber and fuel. Again his Petty-based pit crew did the trick returning him to the track in fifth place. "Those guys got me in and out in a hurry both times tonight," said Bickle. "Myrtle Beach is a tough place to pass, especially with 43 cars out there. You're always in lapped traffic and there's not many opportunities to get by someone. When you can pick up spots in the pits, it's a real bonus." Now fifth with just under 50 circuits remaining, the lapped traffic Bickle alluded to dealt him a bad hand on the final two restarts. "A couple of lapped cars jumped up to the top lane on the last restart," Bickle stated. "That allowed the top four to get away and prevent us from picking up some spots at the end of the race. It would have been tough, my car was just a tick tight and it wouldn't rotate in the middle of the corner like I wanted it to. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Fred Wanke (Bickle's crew chief) gave me another great car and another Top-5 finish. After the way things started out for us this season, I'm thrilled with that." Bickle took the checkered flag behind Green, Kevin Harvick, Elton Sawyer and Jason Keller. The fifth-place finish equaled his NBS career best effort posted last week at South Boston and in the 1995 Goodys 300 at Daytona Beach, FL. "We're going to do our best to beat that at Milwaukee," Bickle stated in reference to his next NBS appearance in two weeks. "Man, I'd like nothing better than to do that in front of all my family and friends in Wisconsin. I've raced and won at every major asphalt track in Wisconsin in my career - every one except Milwaukee. It's going to be great going home and seeing everyone, but it would be especially sweet to get another Top-5 or even a win there." Bickle's #91 Aqua Velva/Popeyes Chicken Pontiac will take the green flag at Milwaukee on Sunday, July 2 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The 18th event of the 32-race NASCAR Busch Series 2000 season will be telecast live on CBS and will be broadcast by MRN radio.

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Drivers Rich Bickle , Adam Petty , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Jeff Green , Richard Petty