BUSCH: Rich Bickle Gateway race report

MADISON, IL (July 31, 2000) - The number 11 has played a big part in Rich's Bickle's life the last two weeks. At Pocono, PA a week ago, Bickle started last and steered Terry Labonte's NASCAR Winston Cup car to an 11th-place finish in...

MADISON, IL (July 31, 2000) - The number 11 has played a big part in Rich's Bickle's life the last two weeks. At Pocono, PA a week ago, Bickle started last and steered Terry Labonte's NASCAR Winston Cup car to an 11th-place finish in the Pennsylvania 500. This weekend, the results weren't as kind as Bickle crashed his Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits Pontiac out of the CarQuest 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at Gateway International Raceway on Lap 11. "Talk about being on opposite ends of the deal," said Bickle when told of the numerical oddity. "That's what this racing thing is all about. One week you can be on top of the world and the next it's on top of you." Numerology also played a part in Bickle even being in the Gateway event. As a part-time Busch Series competitor, Bickle had no provisionals to rely upon to make the field. When rain drenched qualifying, NASCAR rules set the field by points and a the results of Friday morning's qualifying draw. When Bickle pulled the number eight pill in the qualifying lottery, he was all but assured of making the race no matter what the weather did. "That was just pure luck," said Bickle. "It seemed like everyone who needed a low number to get in - Steve Park, Kenny Schrader, me - all got one. It was still pretty close. I drew number eight and we were the last one to make the field. Bobby Hillin drew number 12 and he had to go home. It was a shame we couldn't get qualifying in because that gives everyone an equal shot. Still, we were happy to be in the race no matter how they set the field." The rains stopped long enough to allow Bickle and the rest of the field to get in "Happy Hour" practice prior to the race. There, Bickle's bright yellow Popeyes mount proved to be one of the fastest cars in the session and expectations were high entering the event. "We only showed up 29th on the practice sheet, but a lot of guys bolted on new tires at the end of the session and ran some quick times," Bickle stated. "We were really good on old tires, one of the fastest cars at the end of practice. How you ran on old tires was going to determine how good you were in the race." The qualifying draw put Bickle last when the 43-car field took the green flag. Bickle immediately went to work passing six cars on the first two laps before narrowly missing a multi-car wreck on the back straight on the third circuit. Now 10 spots up from his original starting position, Bickle again took the green on Lap 9 and again set his sights on the front. Unfortunately, everything changed heading into Turn 1 on Lap 11. "I went into the corner and all of a sudden the car just dropped down on the right front," said Bickle. "I don't know if I cut a tire or if something broke in the suspension. Whatever happened, there was no saving it. I tried to stay out of Mario (Gosslien) and not wreck him, but there was nothing I could do. I was just along for the ride at that point." Bickle's Popeye's Pontiac and Gosslien's Ford quickly headed for the wall after the contact arriving at the concrete barrier with a resounding thud. Neither driver was hurt in the incident, but both cars suffered heavy damage and were done for the night. "What a shame," said Bickle. "We've been waiting three months to debut this Popeyes program and it winds up in the wall after just a few laps. I could tell the car was going to be good and while it was early in the race, I'd like to think we were going to do the same thing we did a week ago at Pocono - start in the back and finish in the front. I know they say "that's racin'", but that pretty much sucked. I hated it that Mario got caught up in it. He's trying to make it in this Busch deal and he didn't need that either. You can't beat bad luck and that's what we had tonight." Bickle was officially credited with a 41st-place finish in the event. Next up for the Edgerton, WI native will be another Winston Cup ride, this one in the #61 Xpress Motorsports entry in the Brickyard 400 entry at Indianpolis Motor Speedway. The Saturday, August 5 event will take the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Time and will be telecast live on ABC television. The event will also be broadcast on MRN Radio. "I'm really looking forward to going back to Indy," said Bickle. "I love racing at the Speedway, there's so much tradition there. To say you raced in the Brickyard is something anyone who has ever driven a race car would like to say. This will be my fifth Brickyard 400 and I'd like nothing better than to have a great run in the IWX Chevrolet. Dave Fuge and the guys have worked really hard to give me a good car and Steve Coulter has stepped up with the funding to make it possible to run up front. We tested pretty good and the team has made some changes in the body and the engine that will make us even better on raceday. Some people might be surprised if we have a great run, but we won't be."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Rich Bickle , Terry Labonte , Steve Park