BUSCH: Rich Bickle switches to Chevrolet for Michigan

BROOKLYN, MI (August 11, 2000) - After more than two years of trying, Rich Bickle has finally adapted the philosophy of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em". "We're going to debut a new car at Michigan," said Bickle, who will switch from the...

BROOKLYN, MI (August 11, 2000) - After more than two years of trying, Rich Bickle has finally adapted the philosophy of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em". "We're going to debut a new car at Michigan," said Bickle, who will switch from the Pontiac brand to a Chevrolet for the NapaOnline 200 NASCAR Busch Series race at Michigan International Speedway August 19. "We had to make the change to Chevys because of aerodynamics. It seems like the whole field at these Busch races is Chevys right now. We had to join the crowd. Bob Newling at NewFab has always built us good speedway cars and he built this one for us. We hope that it is going to be good off the trailer and run up front all day long." Bickle has battled the Chevy 'bowtie brigade' for two seasons, first campaigning a Ford Busch Series entry in 1998-99 before switching to Pontiacs midway through the 1999 season. Despite a pair of fifth-place finishes with a Pontiac this season, the handwriting was on the wall for Bickle. "I ran a Ford Busch car in 1998 because that's what I was running in Winston Cup," said Bickle. "Last year, our Bickle/Smith Motorsports team switched to Pontiacs because I was in that brand in Cup and, to be honest, the Fords weren't that competitive in the Busch Series. The Pontiacs have proven to be a good car on the short tracks where aerodynamics isn't that big of a deal. Our Aqua Velva Pontiac finished fifth at both Myrtle Beach (SC) and South Boston (VA) earlier this year because those were half-mile bull rings. On the big tracks - Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte - we missed the show because we were getting killed on the aero deal. We'll still run the Pontiacs on the short tracks the rest of this season, but we had to do something for the big tracks. You just can't keep going home because your car won't handle." Bickle hopes his bright yellow Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits Chevy, loaded with a Carl Wegner engine under the hood, will be the ticket to success at Michigan this time around. "The key to doing well at Michigan is managing your gas mileage," said Bickle. "Like all racetracks, you have to handle well in the corners and have plenty of horsepower on the straightaways. At Michigan, you're engine builder has to give you a carburetor that will give you plenty of horsepower and one that will get you great gas mileage. That's a tough combination to come up with, but it's what you have to have because all the races at Michigan seem to come down to gas mileage." Bickle, a 10-year NASCAR Winston Cup veteran, has just 28 career Busch starts to his credit, two of them coming at MIS. In 1995, Bickle steered his Kleenex Ford Thunderbird to a 15th-place finish in the Detroit Gasket 200. Last year, Bickle was saddled with a 39th-place finish in the NAPA 200 after engine failure sidelined his Aqua Velva Pontiac. "Michigan is a hard placed to gain positions at," said Bickle. "It's not like a lot of places where you only have one groove. At Michigan, there are three or four grooves, but it's still tough to pass. Running three or four wide makes it exciting for the fans. Michigan is a big, wide racetrack where you pretty much hold it to the mat all day long." Bickle hopes that wide-open strategy will put him near the front of the pack when his Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits Chevy takes the green flag in the NapaOnline 200 at Michigan International Speedway at 12:10 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday, August 19. The event will be telecast live on ESPN and will be broadcast by MRN radio. "This will be our second race for Popeyes and we're hoping to hang around a little longer than last time out," said Bickle. "We broke a hemi joint in the front end and crashed just nine laps into the race at St. Louis. That's always disappointing, but to have that happen right out of the box for a new sponsor like Popeyes was a total bummer for everyone. To say we're hoping for a lot better luck at Michigan is an understatement."

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Drivers Rich Bickle