| ||By Larry McReynolds|
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: Veteran crew chief Larry McReynolds will provide a weekly column on ESPN.com, taking you inside the garage for Mike Skinner and the Lowe's No. 31 Chevrolet team.
After what happened last weekend, I think all of the focus gets turned away
from racing. Losing any racer, in any capacity is difficult. We lost
Christain Lovendahl, the No. 19 Busch Series crew chief, after Richmond, and
of course Adam Petty this past weekend.
I went to Loudon to do the TV
broadcast and nobody wanted to be there. But the show must go on, which is
what I said during the opening of the TV broadcast.
Our whole opening to the show obviously revolved around Adam and the viewpoint the producer
wanted from me was how does a team get through a tragedy like this one. It's been well documented
how everybody's feelings and prayers are for the Pettys, and for the racing
fraternity, the Adam Petty fans and race fans, in general. But the team is
going to have a tough deal, and I speak from definite experience dealing with
the Davey Allison situation.
The only thing that differed from Adam's
situation and Davey's situation is that Davey was killed off the race track.
The team's harshness in dealing with this tragedy has to be harder because
Adam was killed on the race track. So I can relate to it about 80 or 90
They've got to have time to grieve and they'll never get over it. It's been
seven years and I still think of Davey Allison almost every day in some
capacity. But what they have to do is stand by and support and help one
another and move toward the future because there's no doubt in my mind that
is what Adam Petty would want and expect them to do, just like what Davey
Allison would have expected us with the 28 car to do. It's not easy because
it's hard to prepare race cars with tears in your eyes, but we did it and
that's what they have to do.
Trying to explain why these things happen to my 9- and 11-year-old children is hard. It's real hard to
explain it to my 9-year-old because he races Bandaleros. But the way I
put it is no different than if you pick The Bible up and read it. God does
all things for a reason. They don't all make us happy, and we really are
puzzled why sometimes, but like I told Brandon, it was God's plan that Adam
Petty was to die on May 12.
We've still got to protect ourselves. We can't go walk
off the end of a building. But if it hadn't been at Loudon, N.H., in a race
car, more than likely it was going to be something else. That's just the
plan that's laid out for each and every one of us. That's what I tried to
explain to Brandon, and tried to explain it the right way and that's hard to
a 9-year-old that's looking at you thinking, "Why my buddy Adam, who
plays basketball with me every week at MRO -- why did God let this happen?"
It's hard to explain.
On the racing side, we're looking toward The Winston weekend. But a sad part
is that Adam's next Winston Cup race was going to be the Coca-Cola 600 so,
if it could be any harder on Kyle and Patty (Petty, Adam's parents), it's
even going to be harder because of that element.
I would have hoped to be writing now about Mike participating in his
first Winston, which would have been indicative of us having our first
win under our belts by now. But we go out there with confidence about The
Winston and The Winston Open.
Even though it's two races with two people
transferring to The Winston, you've got some strong competition. You've got
Jimmy Spencer who always runs good in those races and has won it a couple of
times. You've got Sterling Marlin and Steve Park and Ricky Rudd who, to my
knowledge, will race in his first Winston Open because he's always been in
The Winston. There's a host of others, because you don't count anybody out. But those are the ones we know are going to be our toughest competition.
Our plan is to take our best car to The Winston. A lot of people would say,
'Wait a minute. You've got the Coca-Cola 600 the week after so why would you
not take it there?' There's always a chance of tearing a car up at The
Winston and having to run what would be your second-favorite car. But Robert
Yates taught me that your next race is your most important race and you take
your best piece to the next race.
We got bit a little bit by that in 1992 with Davey. We were leading the
points and had already won two of the legs of the Winston Million. All we
had to do was win one more of the other two, the Coca-Cola 600 or the
Southern 500, because we had already won Daytona and Talladega. We had that
favorite car, "007," and knew that if we showed up with it, it was almost like
they could go ahead and engrave the trophy. I'm not being boastful -- it was
just the gospel.
It was just an awesome little race car and we said, hey, that's our Winston car. Well, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, winning the first Winston under the lights, but we paid a pretty heavy
price -- we destroyed "007."
But, if we had it to do over again, we would have done the same thing. In my
book, you don't save cars and you don't save motors. You want to be smart
but your very next race is your most important event.
If we can go out and get two days and nights of racing with that car, it's
just going to be more data-gathering for that car when we go back out there
for the Coca-Cola 600 week. So much of our practice for the 600 is in the
daylight and we race in the twilight and dark. When we're out there for The
Winston, we've got a 25-lap qualifying race on Friday night and The Winston
Open Saturday evening. And if everything goes as planned, we'll be in The
Winston at night so we'll have that many racing laps with that race car that
we can apply to the coming week.
It'll be back in the shop Sunday morning to get
painted like the Army car and will be back out there Wednesday. The chance
is that if we get tore up, then we'll go to Plan B. But that's what we'll
We're fixing to start the second-toughest part of our schedule, not so much
because of amount of races in a row, even though it is about seven or eight
in a row through Loudon (July 9), but because of all the different places we
'll go. We'll touch every corner of the country in a month's time.
Normally, by the time we get through this next adventure and we take the next
off-weekend, which is third week of July, you pretty much know who's who in
the garage area. You know who the championship contenders are, for the most
part. You know who are contenders for the Top 10 and you know pretty much
who isn't. That's just the way it always ends up. When we get to Daytona and
Loudon in July, you kind of know who's who for the rest of the year.
We've got a lot going on here in the next few weeks besides all the races.
We're building a brand new road course car that we're trying to get ready to
go shake down at Road Atlanta in two or three weeks. And another wind tunnel
test coming up at the end of the month. So we're got a lot on our plate
coming up so I was glad to give everybody a semi-long weekend this past
Probably one of the most interesting trips that I"ve taken was one 10 or 11
of us from Richard Childress Racing took Tuesday to the Goodyear plant in
Akron, Ohio, to tour their racing tire division. It definitely put a
different perspective on a race tire. I never dreamed that a Goodyear racing
tire was touched by so many human hands and went through so many inspection
processes after it's actually built. You definitely have to tip your hat to
Goodyear for what I saw in about a seven or eight-hour tour.
Goodyear is working hard to make sure that we have good performing, consistent tires. But first and foremost, there's no question that when you watch their whole
deal, it's all about safety and protecting our drivers from blown tires.
When you look at the first 12 races this year, they've come a long way and
done their job well at making sure that didn't happen this year at places it
's happened before.
With that, we get ready for this weekend and, hopefully, Mike Skinner will
participate in his first Winston Saturday night. We've got to do it the
hard way. And we're really looking forward to the Coca-Cola 600. We've had
some good runs at Lowe's Motor Speedway. We finished third there last
October so we're looking forward to it.
There's no home track advantage for anybody at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Everybody's home track for the most part is Lowe's Motor Speedway but when
it carries your team's title sponsor's name, it does maybe add just a little
more pressure. We know the suites are going to be full of our sponsor people
pulling for us hard. Our goal is to see how many of them we can get in
Victory Lane at the end of the day.
McReynolds: 38 isn't so great
McReynolds: Pole, but no win