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Skinner Looks to Indy with Great Expectations

30 July 1998

Mike Skinner
Mike Skinner's hopes of coming to the Brickyard 400 on a high note ended on lap 141 of Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono International Speedway.

"We were in great position to get our second straight top 10," says Skinner, who had a career- best fifth in the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway earlier this month. "Larry (McReynolds) kept making changes to the car, and it kept getting better and better. We had just moved into the top 10 when bam our luck ran out. I can't believe what happened."

Rookie Kenny Irwin, running right in front of Skinner, lost control of his car as they entered the tunnel two at Pocono. After clipping the wall, Irwin bounced hard into Skinner.

"He hit the right front tire pretty hard, but I still thought we were going to be okay," said Skinner, who quickly straightened his car out. But the incident had left Skinner with no brakes. As a result, he was unable to get the car stopped s he entered the third turn, bouncing hard off the wall. The damage forced Skinner to settle for a 30th place finish. "I can't believe our luck," says Skinner. "We had another good run going and then something like that happens."

The cars and stars of NASCAR took to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday. The initial practice session was short lived. Rains fell for nearly an hour drenching the track. There was no rain in the forecast. Welcome to Indy.

The downtime gave Skinner and his crew chief, Larry McReynolds, time to think about his return to the famed oval. McReynolds was quite pleased with the test the Lowe's team had at Indianapolis on July 19-21. "It was a pretty productive test," says McReynolds. "We took three cars up there, and we were really pleased with how two of them ran. And the third one was not far behind. We really got a lot accomplished. I really feel we are going to be in good shape for the race."

McReynolds also believes the Indy test had another major plus. "It was a chance for Mike and I to get to talk about things without the pressure of being at a race," says McReynolds. "We could toss around a lot of ideas. We had plenty of time to try a lot of things so I would have a better feel on what he needs and wants. That's another reason why I feel so good about the test."

McReynolds joined the Lowe's team on June 8 after car owner Richard Childress decided to swap their crew chiefs on his two teams with Kevin Hamlin moving to the Dale Earnhardt-GM Goodwrench Service Plus operation and McReynolds moving to the Skinner-Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse team. "I said before that the move was like tow doctors switching patients to see if they could help them get better," says McReynolds. "Sometimes a new eye is needed. And I think we all agree that it seems to be helping bother teams."

Skinner believes the move has been a big help to the 31 team. "Larry has brought some new ideas--I think Kevin and I might have thought too much alike--to the plate," says Skinner. "We've had three good races in a row together. I really feel good about the second half of the season. And after the test, I feel even better about Indy. I am just looking forward to the rest of the year."

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