BUSCH: Texas Rich Bickle up to the challenge

MOORESVILLE, NC (March 28, 2000) - Rich Bickle has found the transition from full-time NASCAR Winston Cup driver to NASCAR Busch Series team owner/driver a bit more challenging than he first anticipated. "It's been tough getting going, ...

MOORESVILLE, NC (March 28, 2000) - Rich Bickle has found the transition from full-time NASCAR Winston Cup driver to NASCAR Busch Series team owner/driver a bit more challenging than he first anticipated. "It's been tough getting going, there's no doubt about that," said Bickle, who will drive the #91 Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits Pontiac in this weekend's NBS Albertson's 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. "In some ways, I think the Busch Series is even tougher than the Winston Cup ranks. We've got more than 60 cars showing up for just 43 spots at some of our events and with a new team, we can't rely on provisionals (starts based on points). Fortunately, we're finally getting a handle on things and I'm really looking forward to the race at Texas this weekend." After finishing a solid 12th in last year's Winston Cup race at TMS, you can't fault Bickle for wanting to revisit the 1.5-mile track. Additionally, Bickle and his new Bickle/Smith Motorsports team tuned up for the Texas event last week with an encouraging test session. "We consistently ran laps in the 29.9-second range," said Bickle. "Last year, Dave Blaney won the pole for the NBS race with a 29.49 time. We were on old tires, never taped off the front of the car or put timing in the engine, so I think we can run close to what Blaney did to win the pole last year when we're in qualifying trim. If we can do that, I think we'll be in the show come Saturday." Bickle also had an anxious moment or two when he cut down a left rear tire late in the two-day test session. Exiting Turn 4 at more than 170 miles per hour, the cut tire forced Bickle into a long skid before he eventually regained control in the tri-oval grass and guided the Popeyes Pontiac safely back to the pit area. "That was pretty hairy," said Bickle. "I could smell a little rubber burning entering Turn 3, but the car didn't react like a tire was going down. Then it let loose coming out of Turn 4 and I really had my hands full. We were lucky that didn't happen in the middle of the corner, or we would have totally wrecked the car. After a great test like we had, the only thing I want to be taking home is a box of Popeyes Chicken, not the Popeyes car in a box." Bickle, who missed his first two attempts to qualify for Busch races at Las Vegas and Atlanta by a combined four-hundredths of a second, knows qualifying will again be the main focus for his new team at Texas. "The key is just getting in the race these days," said Bickle, who owns one career NBS pole, that coming at Charlotte in 1995. "In a sense, it doesn't matter if you win the pole or are the last car in the race. Pole day is the key because if you make the show, you never know what you can do in the race. Once we get there, I think my experience at this track might help us beat some of these young guys that are tearing up the Busch ranks these days. This will be our first race for the Popeyes folks, so we'd like nothing better than to come out of the Texas race with a top finish." Bickle will be in the Dallas/Fort Worth area beginning Tuesday for a two-day Popeyes Chicken and Biscuit restaurant tour and various media appearances. He will also visit the Texas Scottish Rite Children's Hospital this week. "I spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was a kid," said Bickle, who still suffers from asthma. "Anytime we can make room in the schedule to help make a sick child feel a little better, I'm all for it. I know what it's like to be in there. We're taking the Popeyes car with us - it's painted so cool - I'm sure the kids will love it. There's nothing like seeing the smiles on the kid's faces. This is going to be a great trip for us." Bickle and the rest of the NBS regulars will take the green flag in the Albertson's 300 this Saturday, April 1, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. The event will be televised live on CBS.

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Rich Bickle , Dave Blaney