Stricklin records best finish of season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Calera Native and longtime NASCAR driver Hut Stricklin had his best showing of the year at the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, finishing 11th.

Stricklin, who ran in the top-10 most of the day and the top-five sporadically, said he was proud of the way his car and team performed.

&uot;We ran really well, and I was really pleased,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;We had a great car and our pit stops were good. I feel like I may need to wine and dine some more drivers on Saturday night to get more help on Sundays. It didn’t seem like anybody was helping anybody.&uot;

Stricklin said it was hard to team up with teammate Ward Burton.

&uot;Every time we passed each other, he was going to the front and I was going to the back, or he was going to the back and I was headed to the front,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;The only two that seemed to be helping each other that much were Earnhardt Jr. and Michael (Waltrip). Of course, they were in the position to do that most of the day.&uot;

Earnhardt and Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates, finished the race in first and second place, respectively.

Stricklin said even though Earnhardt Jr. had a very strong car, he felt his car was good enough to win the race.

&uot;We had a good enough car to win, but we couldn’t ever seem to get the help we needed,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;We came out of the pits a few times behind Earnhardt and whoever was running second at that time and ran them down on our own, so I knew then we had a good enough car to win.

&uot;Earnhardt and Waltrip have a history of running well at tracks like Talladega and Daytona, so everyone wants to race with them because they know they can get them to the front. That’s something we just have to build on. But I felt like our car was good enough to win. But, unfortunately for us it takes a lot of help to win a restrictor plate race.&uot;

The Calera native moved up in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings with the strong finish Sunday.

&uot;The past few weeks we have climbed,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;If we can just keep being consistent and continue to have good finishes we’ll be in good shape before too long.&uot;

Stricklin was in the No. 40 spot in the standings prior to the race in Martinsville Va. two weeks ago. A 15th place finish moved the driver to 36th before heading to Talladega. His 11th place finish there lands him in the 33rd spot.

Stricklin said the news of Jack Roush’s airplane crash in Troy Friday afternoon came as a surprise.

&uot;I actually didn’t find out about it until Saturday morning,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;I was totally shocked to hear it. I just hope and pray he pulls through O.K.. I know he’s got a long road ahead of him, but he’s a tough guy and I know he’s doing pretty well now.&uot;