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NASCAR BGN Food City 250 Preview: #34, Mike McLaughlin

21 August 1997

 #34 Mike McLaughlin, Royal Oak Charcoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo
 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division
 Food City 250 Advance
 Bristol Motor Speedway

BRISTOL, TN - During the 1997 NASCAR Busch Series season, Mike McLaughlin 
made a huge turnaround at Bristol Motor Speedway. While participating on the
Kyle Petty Charity Tour, which left from Texas and ended in Bristol, 
McLaughlin was introduced to Veteran Winston Cup Star Harry Gant. Holding the
race speed record, winning the 1992 spring race and earning a pole position 
at Bristol Motor Speedway, Gant was just the man McLaughlin needed to get
advice from regarding his woes on this particular track.  

After several conversations with Gant, McLaughlin thought long and hard about
the race at Bristol, which was only a few days away.

"Harry explained to me his style of driving, and how he worked with the car,"
said McLaughlin. "I took that into consideration for that particular weekend.
Set-up wise I could not use what he had, but I tried a few of the adjustments
he suggested and they seemed to help.

"Gary Cogswell also suggested a different type of car than what we had used 
in the past, and that worked."  

McLaughlin qualified the #34 Royal Oak Chevrolet in second position, his best
start ever at Bristol and his second outside pole of the 1997 season. On 
April 12, 1997 he placed second in the Moore's Snacks 250, his best finish at
that point in the season, wiping away any doubt of his abilities to perform on
the series' toughest track.

Bristol was a challenge for McLaughlin early in his career, particularly
during his first full NASCAR Busch Series season in 1994. Although his rookie
year was filled with positives and negatives, Bristol Motor Speedway left an
eye sore on his stat sheet during that season.

McLaughlin had two chances that year to place his Fiddle Faddle Chevy in the
field at the high-banked Bristol Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, McLaughlin
failed to qualify for both events, the only two races he missed that season.

"It's always disappointing when you don't qualify for a race," expressed
McLaughlin. "It wasn't that I didn't like the track because I did. I am not
sure exactly what was going wrong, except for the fact that I could never cut
a fast lap."

Heading into his second full season in the NASCAR Busch Series, McLaughlin,
still with Team 34 Racing, was looking forward to using the experience he had
gained from the previous year to be more of a threat to his competitors. Even
though McLaughlin picked up the pace and came away with a third place finish
in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, Bristol Motor Speedway still got
the best of him.

On April Fool's Day, 1995, McLaughlin started the French's Mustard Chevy from
the 35th position, only to end up finishing 30th in the race. In August of the
same year, he began the race on the 0.5-mile oval from 26th and finished 21st 

"Each time we went there to race we felt prepared," McLaughlin said. "Then
when we didn't perform well, it was pretty frustrating."   

McLaughlin and Team 34 Racing added Royal Oak Charcoal as their primary
sponsor on the NASCAR Busch Series in 1996. Going into Bristol for the May
race last season, McLaughlin hoped his new red and yellow flamed Chevy would
bring him a more positive outcome in the Tennessee mountains. However,
McLaughlin qualified the car 25th and finished the race in 27th place.  

Three months later, McLaughlin's luck changed for a day. He qualified the #34
Royal Oak Chevy in 13th position, his best start yet at the infamous track. 
On lap 11, he was involved in an accident and never got the chance to redeem 
himself as his Royal Oak Chevy could not finish the race.

Erasing all fears and doubts in the 1997 spring race, McLaughlin and Team 34
Racing head back to Bristol for the Food City 250 with a positive attitude.

"I am looking forward to going back to Bristol," McLaughlin said. "We are
going to take the same car we used in the spring, and we will see what it
brings us."

With McLaughlin battling for a top-five finish in NASCAR Busch Series point
standings and eight races remaining on the 1997 schedule, he is thinking of
nothing less than a first-place finish for the #34 Royal Oak Charcoal
Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night, August 22. 

By Events & Outings, Inc.