NASCAR-WCUP: Pressley Finishes 3rd in Texas 500
7 April 1998Fort Worth, TX -- Jasper Engines & Transmissions driver Robert Pressley turned in the best finish of his Winston Cup Series career in the Texas 500, finishing third behind race winner Mark Martin and second place finisher Chad Little. Pressley had to overcome a sore shoulder as well as bruised ribs suffered in a crash at Bristol last week.
Pressley qualified the Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford Taurus in the eighth position on Saturday when NASCAR decided to halt qualifying after three of the first nine cars crashed in turn one. After inspecting the track, Speedway officials suspected water seeping up onto the track surface as the cause of the accidents. NASCAR resumed qualifying on Saturday morning after a thorough inspection of the speedway.
As NASCAR officials began preparations for the final hour of practice on Saturday afternoon, they discovered that water had once again started to leak out of the surface of the race track. NASCAR canceled the teams' "Happy Hour" opting instead to give the speedway staff more time to find a solution to the water problem that had plagued the speedway all week.
"We really needed to have that last practice, Crew Chief Michael McSwain said Saturday evening after leaving the track. "We haven't had a chance to make any long runs with Robert to see how strong he'll be in tomorrow's race. I was hoping to get in 15 - 20 lap runs and see how he felt. Now we don't have that option."
With Pressley's ability to run the full 500 miles in question, the decision was made to have a relief driver standing by in case Robert wasn't able to stay in the car for the entire race. "This car is too good to just run around in circles just to collect points," Pressley said Sunday before the race. "That's why we've asked Bobby Hillin, Jr. to stand by in case I can't go all day. Bobby has worked with this team before. He drove this track last year and can give us the best shot at a good finish if I can't stay in the car all day. We're going to take it one run at a time and see what happens." However, with less than 65 laps to go in the event, Pressley was running fifth and feeling no pain. "Right now I feel pretty good," Pressley told the crew. "Let's go for it!"
In the final pit stop of the day, the crew changed two tires and filled the car with enough gas to go the distance. Pressley restarted the race in fourth, picking up a position in the pits. Mark Martin was the leader, followed by Chad Little, and Joe Nemechek. Dale Jarrett decided to take on four tires and started just behind the #77 Ford in fifth. Jarrett chased Pressley for 30 laps looking for a way around the Jasper Engines and Transmissions car, but lost a cylinder in the closing laps of the race and finished 11th.
"I can't say enough about this Jasper Motorsports team," Pressley said during an interview after the race. "They did a terrific job getting me in and out of the pits all day long. When you get that kind of support from a team in the pits, it just made me that much more determined to run as hard as I could out on the race track. They had a wounded dog in this car for a driver today and they gave it their all on every stop. I just wish I could have been 100% today because we had a car capable of winning the race."
Next week the Winston Cup Series will take a break for the Easter Holiday, giving Pressley a two week hiatus before heading to Martinsville, Virginia, for the Goody's Headache Powders 500 at the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway. Practice and qualifying are scheduled to begin on Friday, April 17, 1998.