Out of the Loop

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

In his glory days, Hut Stricklin was a force to be reckoned with on the track.

In 1991, the Calera native turned heads in Winston Cup, finishing a career high 16th in the final Nascar Winston Cup Standings.

His season was highlighted with a second place finish to friend Davey Allison at Michigan.

Stricklin, son-in-law of Nascar legend Donnie Allison, raced his way to his first career Winston Cup Pole Award at North Wilkesboro in 1995.

In 1996, while driving the No. 8 Circuit City Ford, Stricklin dominated the Southern 500 in Darlington most of the race. Stricklin led the most laps only to loose the lead due to an overheating engine on the final lap to Jeff Gordon. Stricklin would go on to record his second 2nd place finish of his career.

The soon-to-be 43-year-old Stricklin now finds himself out of a ride in Nascar &045; for the moment.

Following the Bristol night race last season, Stricklin was notified he would no longer be with Bill Davis Racing and would be replaced by Kenny Wallace.

Hills Bros. Coffee, Stricklin’s sponsor a year ago, had earlier decided to drop their sponsorship of the driver.

&uot;I wish I could say there was something on the horizon,&uot; Stricklin said, &uot;but, unfortunately, there’s not. The way the economy is these days, it is hard to find sponsors willing to spend the money to sponsor a car in Nascar. Right now, I just don’t see anything happening in the near future.&uot;

That means Stricklin, a staple at Talladega and the 11th place finisher in the fall race a year ago, won’t be making the trip from his home in Mt. Ulla, N.C. to the track in April.

&uot;I will definitely miss racing at Talladega this season,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;It’s an opportunity for me to see my family and friends back home as well as in Nascar. But, you never know. Something could happen. I would jump on a chance &045; the right chance &045; to race at Talladega.&uot;

The right chance is Stricklin’s theme these days.

While racing with Bill Davis Racing a year ago, 11th at Talladega was his highest finish. Stricklin averaged finishing 28th

for the season.

His teammate Ward Burton, on the other hand, won two races, including the Daytona 500, and finished the season with seven top tens.

&uot;When you make it to the level of being a Nascar driver, virtually all drivers are equal,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;That’s not to say there are not better drivers out there than me, but you just can’t make it to that level and be bad. The difference is in the team and equipment and what is in your car every Sunday.

&uot;When it came to Ward Burton and I, we just didn’t have the same thing motor-wise,&uot; Stricklin continued. &uot;They just didn’t have the money or either the time to put together two cars alike like you see with the Hendricks or Roushe cars. This last weekend’s race, all but one of the Roushe cars had engine problems. But they will all be fixed by next Sunday.&uot;

Stricklin said while he was looking for a new ride, it had to be the right one.

&uot;I want to get back into a car in Nascar, but it has to be the right way this time,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;I’m looking for a team and owner who will put me in a situation to win.&uot;

Stricklin said while the sport he has loved his entire life has been good to him at times, it has also been bad.

&uot;This business can be pretty cruel from time to time,&uot; Stricklin said. &uot;But I have had my good times, too. I have raced at Talladega every year from 1989 to about 1999. I was in between jobs when 2000 rolled around and then I raced there the last two years.&uot;

Before joining Bill Davis Racing in 2002, Stricklin raced the No. 90 Hills Bros. car for Junie Donlavey.

During that time he scored an impressive 6th place finish at Michigan, but the season was not all roses.

Car owner Donlavey and sponsor Hills Bros. had a disagreement on where the team’s shop would be located. Hills Bros. wanted Donlavey to move his team to the Charlotte, N.C. area in order to use more resources.

When Donlavey declined, Hills Bros. began a search for a different team. With the 2001 season closing, Hill Bros. announced Bill Davis Racing would be Stricklin’s next stop. Stricklin competed in the season’s final race in the No. 23 Hills Bros. Dodge and finished 11th at Atlanta.

After four Nascar races in 2003, Stricklin’s replacement, Wallace, has finished 16th, 38th, 30th and 26th, respectively, and currently sits in 32nd place in the Winston Cup standings. Wallace’s teammate Ward Burton is in the 28th spot