NASCAR BGN Lysol 200 -- Report from Watkins Glen
30 June 1997"I didn't know we were that close. They didn't tell me." Mike McLaughlin on his fuel situation at WGI
WATKINS GLEN, NY -- The crew of Mike McLaughlin calculated and calculated and according to their numbers they were going to be 'close' on fuel. Watkins Glen, a 2.54. mile road course, isn't a place where one can conserve fuel, You've got to dig every inch of the way. So with that knowledge in hand the crew of the Royal Oak Monte Carlo decided to roll the dice and keep the news that fuel might be an issue to themselves and let Magic Shoes McLaughlin do what he had to do to keep the competition, in the form of teammate Todd Bodine, behind him. McLaughlin, running on fumes, crossed the line 0.431 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win the Lysol 200.
The race looked like it was going to be dominated by Winston Cup regulars Joe Nemechek, who started on the pole, and Terry Labonte. Nemechek and Labonte took turns leading the pack through the lefts and rights that make up picturesque road course located in upstate New York. It was on lap 45 when the caution flew for Buckshot Jones, who spun off the course, that things would change and pit strategies would come in to play. When the caution flew the cars of Todd Bodine and Mike McLaughlin dove to the pits for, as it would turn out, their last pit stops of the day. The then race leaders, Joe Nemechek and Terry Labonte decided to roll the dice and stay out.
On lap 55 Nemechek and Labonte pealed off the pack and dove to the pits for their last service of the day while the course was under a green flag. When the cycle of pit stops was completed it was McLaughlin on the point followed by Todd Bodine. From there the pair of drivers from the Frank Cicci stables ran hard but clean through the now mounting lapped traffic. Bodine was able to close down on McLaughlin in traffic but when the pair would hit open track McLaughlin would open up a slight edge over Bodine. That is the way the pair took the checkers.
McLaughlin in victory lane said, "I didn't know we were that close (on fuel). They didn't tell me. I figured we were safe. I was just worried about Todd."
McLaughlin talking about his teammate said, "I would say we had a little better race car than Todd did. Todd struggled all practice. Before the race today I think he changed four springs and all four shocks, Todd's not afraid to do that if the car's not right. It paid off for him today because I don't believe he had a second place race car yesterday."
"I gave it all there was and then some," commented Todd Bodine on his runner up finishing position. "I actually overdrove the car and messed it up. I got it pushing a little bit. Mike (McLaughlin) wasn't making any mistakes. That's what you've got to do to win here...not make mistakes and be smooth. He (Mike McLaughlin) did it. Stanley and Royal Oak and all these people that support this team. This shows what this team is all about. We're a team. We're a team in every sense of the word. Mike winning this race is as good as me winning."
The drivers that rounded out the top-five were Winston Cup regulars, Joe Nemechek, Jimmy Spencer and Terry Labonte.
The see-saw series points battle between Bodine and Randy LaJoie went in favor of Bodine after LaJoie suffered a mechanical failure in the form of a broken panhard bar. LaJoie talking about his wild ride said, "With three laps to go I came up on Dale Jarrett and was racing him for position and I said, 'Boy, this is going to be fun. I'll get another position.' I didn't know where we were at but I was going to race race DJ for position. I came through the esses wide open and man, that panhard bar broke. Let me tell you a little secret. What a ride I just took. Thank God the thing stayed in between the walls and didn't hit anything." LaJoie finished out the race with the rear end of the FINA Chevrolet slapping back and forth under him. The moved save him several positions on the track and minimized Bodine's points advantage to 18 markers in the provisional points standings.
The race took 2 hours 13 minutes 36 seconds to complete making the average speed of the event 90.225 miles per hour. The caution flew a total of five times slowing the action for a total of 11 laps.
The next race will be the Sears Auto Center 250 to be run July 6th at the Milwaukee Mile.
Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel