For Immediate Release DAY 1 - Jan. 17, 1997 Welcome to the Chevy Trucks Challenge, the 1997 season opener for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the first NASCAR race ever held at Walt Disney World Speedway. Mai Lindstrom, director of ...
For Immediate Release
DAY 1 - Jan. 17, 1997
Welcome to the Chevy Trucks Challenge, the 1997 season opener for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the first NASCAR race ever held at Walt Disney World Speedway.
Mai Lindstrom, director of public relations for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Bill York, press room manager for Walt Disney World Speedway; Owen Kearns, NASCAR's media coordinator for the truck series; Dave Herbst of the Walt Disney World News and Media Information and their staffs are on hand to assist you.
An estimated 1,500 race fans turned out at Race Rock Thursday night for an autograph session with 25 of the drivers competing in the Chevy Trucks Challenge.
Drivers who attended the two-hour session were Mike Bliss, Jay Sauter, Rick Carelli, Dave Rezendes, Tammy Jo Kirk, John Nemechek, Felix Giles, Doug George, Rick Crawford, Ron Hornaday Jr., Rich Bickle, Michael Dokken, Butch Miller, David Smith, Rob Rizzo, Bob Keselowski, Tony Roper, Bob Brevak, Boris Said III, Tobey Butler, Kenny Allen, Bryan Reffner, Joe Ruttman, Lance Norick, Ron Barfield Jr. and Bliss' crew chief Barry Dodson. ***
At 10:17 a.m., Rich Bickle was the first NASCAR driver on the track for the first optional practice of the weekend in Darrell Waltrip's #17 Sears DieHard Chevy. Defending series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. was second in the #16 NAPA United Brake Part Chevy, followed by Joe Ruttman in the #80 LCI Worldwide Communications Ford.
Many of the competitors in the Chevy Trucks Challenge have ties to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its promotional company, IMS Events, organizer of both the Chevy Trucks Challenge and next weekend's Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Presented by Aurora.
Michael Waltrip and Joe Nemechek have started all three Brickyard 400s to date and Rich Bickle and Jimmy Hensley have competed in two each.
Randy McDonald, Rick Carelli, Ron Hornaday Jr., Bob Brevak, Bob Schacht and Ron Barfield Jr. have attempted to qualify for at least one Brickyard 400. Randy Tolsma passed his driver's test for the Indianapolis 500 in 1996.
Truck owners who have competed in the Brickyard 400 are Geoff Bodine, Darrell Waltrip, Hendrick Motorsports, Ken Schrader, Roush Racing and Bill Elliott.
POST-MORNING PRACTICE QUOTES: JACK SPRAGUE: "Cool! The truck's good...brushed the wall coming off (Turn) 1. Big races seem to draw more trucks. Some just hafta go home. Ended up fifth or sixth quickest. We're close enough to the top that we should be fine tomorrow during qualifying. I hope this afternoon is better than this morning."
RON HORNADAY JR.: "Not bad. It's still a distance to go to get to the top of the pack. We got to pick up on some speed. We're happy...just have to keep on trying to get the right setup. I didn't get a full practice in. We had to make some changes. I like running here. It's better than the rides I took last night at Disney World but the Teacup was a lot of fun."
JOHN NEMECHEK: "Just trying out some new springs and shocks. This track is taking everything you have to get it. We're running the same setup as the test in December. It's a little cooler so it takes the tires longer to heat up, but it's better on the engines because it'll give us more horsepower. The track seems to be in great ciondition. They did a real nice job of cleaning up."
JOE NEMECHEK: "Today we're trying race stuff. This afternoon, we'll try qualifying stuff. It's looking good to win the race. This race is like a Busch race...everyone and anyone is here. There's just a few spots to shoot for."
RANDY TOLSMA (first time here): "You can't compare it (the track) to anywhere. My crew chief says it's like a little Pocono. It's special to be here. The Disney and Indianapolis Motor Speedway involvement here is great. I lived in Indiana before moving to South Carolina. We're happy to be here." (About his first time here): "It's so different...a new race track and a new truck. It's different than open wheel. It's a challenging race track with all the elevation changes. It's going to be fun."
JOE RUTTMAN: "It's hard to wipe the smile off my face. I'm having fun. There's no change (from December). We're here with the same truck running about the same speeds. Everything is just about the same. It's good to be back racing. I'm having fun and can't quit smiling." (About cooler weather): "It's perfect for the trucks. The cooler the weather, it's better for the trucks. After going around the track for a few laps, it goes up to about 115 to 120 degrees in the truck, so it's perfect."
Irvan-Simo Racing conducted the first news conference of the weekend to formally announce Boris Said III as its primary driver and Federated Auto Parts as a sponsor.
BORIS SAID III: (about transition to trucks): "It's been a steep learning curve. I'm still learning to keep turning left out there. Ernie has helped me out a lot, even though he has a pretty busy schedule. But every chance he gets, he's here with me. Being here is pretty exciting. You have 60 guys at the track and only 32 positions. That's pretty amazing."
ERNIE IRVAN: (about driving trucks): "I really don't know what truck races I'll run in, although I do know I will run some. It will probably be only one or two." (about being an owner): "We want to concentrate our total effort on getting Boris experience on the track. We need to get him enough laps on an oval. It takes a lot of laps to get comfortable here. I can tell you it takes a lot of practice. I even turn right sometimes. Some days when I run the truck, then Boris goes out there, he can get up to my speed by the end of the day."
MARK SIMO: "We have a lot of collective experience as a team. I can speak for Boris, when he goes into the road races, with his prior experience, I think he can finish respectably there."
At 2:15 p.m., Jimmy Davis hit the wall in Turn 3 in the #53 (running as #69) Futurenet OnLine Inc. Ford. The truck sustained right-side damage and broke the front rotor.
"Don't know what happened," Davis said. "We were about up to our hottest lap, went deep into Turn 3 and drifted into the wall."
POST-AFTERNOON PRACTICE QUOTES: JOE RUTTMAN: "They're starting to psyche me up. Depending on how good the driver is, he/she can pick up a tenth or lose a tenth but I am good at qualifying. I have been doing it for a long time." (about the cool weather) "It makes an even playing field with this constant temperature. Two o'clock can be the heat of the day and sometimes that can have a mental effect on you, but it just determines if you're first or last. You can't let it affect you. It can psyche yourself up or go the other way. It is important to qualify well, but if I end up in the back of the field, I know I (still) have a fast truck."
JACK SPRAGUE: (about qualifying and race setups) "Both are about the same. We don't change much. We're kinda there. We have have a pretty general setup for these tracks." (About fastest speed for this session) "Truck is pretty good, there's a little more there. Practice is tough for me. We always do pretty good in the race."
MICHAEL WALTRIP: (about setups) "We worked on a little bit of both (qualifying and race setups) this afternoon. We're usually not that concerned with qualifying and concentrate on the race setup, but with over 60 trucks here that are trying to get in the race, we'd better qualify well, or we won't have to worry about our race setup!"
Michael A. Grimaldi, GM Vice President and vehicle line executive for full-sized trucks for Chevrolet Motor Division will serve as Grand Marshal of the Chevy Trucks Challenge. He joined General Motors in 1976 and has held positions of increasing importance in Pontiac, Oldsmobile and North American Operations.
Kurt L. Ritter, Chevrolet brand manager for C/K pickup trucks, will serve as honorary starter for the Chevy Trucks Challenge. He joined Chevrolet in 1971 and has served as truck merchandising manager in the Louisville zone, marketing center manager in Los Angeles, branch manager in Kansas City and Tampa and Chevrolet truck marketing manager.
Fifty-eight trucks practiced today. The trucks of #11 Mike Hurlbert, #34 Bob Brevak and #93 Andy Hillenberg did not practice today.
NASCAR Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader will make a major sponsorship announcement regarding his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at a media luncheon in the Walt Disney World Speedway Media Center's hospitality tent. Schrader, driver Tobey Butler, sponsorship representatives and the race vehicle will be present for interviews and photos.
END DAY 1 NOTES