NASCAR-BGN: McLaughlin Races to 12th Place Finish in St. Louis
20 October 1998ST. LOUIS--- Goulds Pumps driver Mike McLaughlin came into the Carquest 250 with one goal in mind. McLaughlin was aiming for back-to-back victories after his stunning win at Charlotte Motor Speedway just two weeks ago. McLaughlin and the team reached into their bag of tricks, but were unable to find the magic to return to victory lane. All was not lost though, as McLaughlin raced hard for a 12th place finish at the 1.25 mile oval, located just miles from the Gateway Arch and Mississippi River.
McLaughlin and the team spent Thursday afternoon and Friday practicing for qualifying. As McLaughlin prepared to take his qualifying lap, the skies opened up and an hour-long rain shower delayed qualifying and changed the racing surface. With a dry track, McLaughlin ran his two qualifying laps and recorded a 16th place effort. McLaughlin followed qualifying with a 30-minute final practice session.
Saturday morning arrived with early rain showers before turning into a nice fall afternoon with a brisk wind. As the race began, McLaughlin worked hard to clear slower traffic and settle into a comfortable racing position. McLaughlin struggled at times with the handling of the race car, but his veteran team worked hard each pit stop to adjust the chassis to Mike's liking. The team even tried to roll the dice on a fuel strategy as they did in Charlotte, pitting on lap 107 under caution for tires and gas. Lap 107 was also the same lap Mike pitted on in Charlotte on his way to victory. The Goulds Pumps team was hoping for the last 93 laps to go caution-free, knowing they would be one of the only teams that could run the remaining race without another pit stop. Unfortunately a caution occurred just a few laps later, ending the fuel strategy.
Mike continued to race hard throughout the last 80 laps of the race before finishing in the 12th position. Dale Earnhardt Jr., claimed the checkered flag by holding off Matt Kenseth.
"We really wanted to win this race today and make it 3 wins for the season," McLaughlin said. "We didn't accomplish that, but there are still 3 more races that we have to win more races. The team worked hard all weekend, we just weren't able to charge up to the front today."
The Busch Series will take this weekend off before heading to Rockingham to begin a three-race stretch to close out the 1998-racing season. Racing action begins at 2:00pm EST on October 31st on ESPN.