Only three races into the Winston Cup season, Phil Parsons has been relieved of his ride with the Morgan-McClure Racing team out of Abingdon, Va.
Parsons, who has experienced a rough life on the NASCAR tour since joining the circuit in 1983, said Wednesday that he was caught entirely off guard by the decision, which was made late Tuesday by team owner Larry McClure. In three races this year, Parsons crashed three cars and finished only one race.McClure said Wednesday that he decided to make the change after Parsons' 14th-place finish at Rockingham last week. He said that the team might offer the ride to Ernie Irvan, who will test the team's Oldsmobile this week in Atlanta.
McClure said that the move to fire Parsons was a business decision based on Parsons' performance this year.
``He needed time to adjust to our team,' McClure said. ``And we only have a 29-race season. This was something we wanted to get done now and not wait. We weren't getting the results we wanted.'
Parsons said Wednesday that he has made no plans for the rest of the season.
``I don't know if there are any rides left out there,' Parsons said. ``I don't have a lot of choices. It's not good timing. Three races into the season...'
Parsons finished 42nd at Daytona and 26th at Richmond before last week's race in Rockingham. He crashed three times at Daytona and Richmond, which might have had something to do with McClure's decision.
``It could have,' McClure said. ``It seems like some drivers can race on the edge and not wreck, and some can't. We didn't want to be in that situation. I've rebuilt 40 race cars in the last few years, and I didn't want to go through that again. In racing, we expect wrecked cars, but we expect to be up front when it happens.'
Last season, Rick Wilson drove for McClure. Wilson went through many of the 40 race cars in his four-year association with McClure.
But McClure said that it was more Parsons' style than his results that prompted the decision.
``His style was to lay back and wait,' McClure said. ``That's not my style. I tried to explain that to him. He couldn't tell us if it was the car - if it was handling bad - or the engine - if he had the power. He needed to tell us when changes needed to be made. When you get that down, you're supposed to be able to go to the front.
``Some drivers can make up for it. Some drivers need more power. Some can get more out of a car than is there sometimes. That's the kind of driver I want.
``I've been in this business for seven years, and when I got in I was as dumb as a bucket of coal. I've made some bad decisions, and I feel that hiring Phil was a bad decision.
``I don't want to say anything to hurt Phil. He's a gentleman, and we had a good relationship. My foremost hope is that he gets another ride and he wins races.'
Parsons said that McClure gave him no indication that there was a problem with his driving style.
``This was totally unexpected,' Parsons said. ``They didn't tell me anything other than that they wanted to make a change. I thought we had a good relationship. Everything that happened this year was not my fault. At Daytona, somebody hit me from behind, and at Richmond somebody blew an engine right in front of me.'
Parsons left the Richard Jackson team after last season, a season that also included crashed cars and unfulfilled expectations. Parsons crashed the team's final car at Atlanta, before the last race of the season. He ended the year with $285,012 in winnings, 17th best on the tour. Before the season ended, he was already testing cars for McClure, so the association was actually much longer than three races. Parsons tested at Daytona before the 1990 season began and was one of the fastest cars there.
All indications pointed to the team having a successful season, something McClure never accomplished with Wilson as the driver. Parsons was also hoping a return to the form that made him one of the most sought-after drivers on the tour two years ago. Parsons won the 1988 Winston 500 at Talladega, his only tour victory. He won more than $500,000 that season, his best year ever.