DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February, 13, 2021) – Rich Bickle qualified an impressive fourth for the Lucas Oil 200 by General Tire for Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
The 59-year old native of Edgerton, WI was part of the first, of six, groups and held the pole until the final one went out. That great starting position for the 80-lap race held up pretty well until lap 10 after the initial green flag. While running in the top-10, Bickle was tagged in the right rear by another competitor sending him up the race track at a bad angle.
Instead of hitting the wall, another competitor made contact in the right side just before the No. 45 on the door causing significant damage to the LaCrosse Speedway Oktoberfest, Pub Table Racers, FabForce Trade School and Lake Norman Patios & Game Rooms machine.
Bickle quickly told the crew how the car felt and said the right front area of the car needed some bear bond to repair where the crush panel had just been taken out. Crew Chief Mike “Grumpy” Cheek called Bickle to pit road where the crew leapt into action on lap 13.
When the race restarted on lap 16, Bickle was in 29th position. Through the next nine laps, the veteran driver was up to 20th place. When the competition caution waved on Lap 43, he was now 16th on the scoring pylon. Because of the earlier pit stop, crew chief and driver decided to stay out with enough fuel to make it to the end and gain track position.
For the remainder of the race, Bickle kept fighting to stay with the lead pack as the bear bond kept coming off, but fell to 16th place. When one more caution waved on lap 78, it allowed Bickle to pit for more bear bond to see if they could capitalize on the restart for a top-10 finish.
When the final green flag waved on lap 81 he was in 18th place. When the checkered flag was shown one lap later, he picked up three positions to finish in 15th place for the Empire Racing Group, LLC team.
Rich Bickle Quotes: “First, I want to thank everyone who came on board to make this happen. The T1 Racing team with Tony D’Ambrose and the Super Late Model guys came down and really put in some great effort.
“We had a great qualifying run and everyone working on the cars really get the credit.”
Bickle on the early incident: “We were in the top-10 there for the early part. We weren’t running too hard, just settling in and working with the other cars out there. Then, we got tagged and it could have been a lot worse if Dave Mader wasn’t there on the outside to keep us from crashing into the wall. Once the bear bond kept coming off, it really affected how we could handle in the draft.
”It’s frustrating to see some of these drivers racing to win on Lap 10. I mean, when you have the two leading cars who are teammates taking each out that shows some of these drivers need to learn patience. I had some guys going by me not even braking as it seemed like they were racing to get into the wreck.
“Some of these younger drivers need to learn to see the what’s ahead of them and not just race off their hood pins. I just think a lot of wrecks could be avoided if drivers would look at the big picture out the windshield.”
Bickle on racing at Daytona one more, and last, time: “Finishing 15th is good, but it’s not the finish we wanted and know we could have done better with a 100% car.
“This all started when I turned 59 last May and was thinking I wanted to race Daytona one last time. Since this is my 45th and final year racing, we put a deal together with Empire (Racing Group) and Mike (Cheek) to race here.
“I came to Daytona in 1976 and witnessed the best finish ever with Richard Petty and David Pearson wrecking coming to the checkers. Pearson limped his car across the line to win. I told my parents I was going to race Daytona someday.
“It’s been 18 years since I last raced here and I just wanted to do something special and run this old girl of Daytona one last time. I had a blast and it felt good to go that fast again, that was pretty cool.”