Houston still seeking title shot By Marty Smith

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 7, 1999) To look at the list of achievements Andy Houston pieced together in the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, you'd never imagine his campaign was a disappointment.

However, by Houston's personal standards that's exactly what it was.

Houston was the most consistent driver on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series circuit in 1999. The driver of the CAT Rental Stores Chevrolet completed the most laps of any driver, earning the "Like a Rock" $50,000 bonus from Chevrolet. He also finished in the top-10 in points for the first time in his career. Still, following the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at California Speedway, there was no check mark in the win column, thus his season ended as a disappointment for the Addington Racing team.

"It wasn't a bad finish. We moved up four spots in the points from where we were our rookie year," Houston said. "I was a little disappointed we didn't win any races. We finished more races than anybody else, but some of those finishes weren't as competitive as I would've liked.

"We're really proud of winning the contingency award from Chevrolet, but all in all we feel like we were down a little bit performance-wise from where we were the year before. We're really working hard in the shop right now to figure out why that is."

Despite his frustration from the lack of wins, Houston did in fact have a fine season. He notched five top-5 finishes and 14 top-10s, earning him a seat at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series banquet for the first time in his career.

"I'm looking forward to San Francisco a lot," Houston said. "Being in the top-10 in points is a pretty good accomplishment, but we want to be in contention to win that title, and hopefully we'll be able to do that next year."

With the departure of Ron Hornaday to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and Stacy Compton to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Houston will certainly join '99 champion Jack Sprague, Greg Biffle and Dennis Setzer on the list of contenders for the 2000 title.

"I feel like we learned quite a bit this year," Houston said. "Now we got the Hendrick engine program which has been a big help. About eight or nine races through the year, we felt like we were struggling in the engine department, plus we got the new Chevrolet Silverado body style that we all had to learn and get used to, so we were a little behind from the start.

"We really feel like we've made great gains on making that truck a competitive, front-running truck week in and week out. Those will both be big positives for us next year. We're making some changes too, there's three or four things we're concentrating on here to make our program a lot stronger in 2000."

Heading into NASCAR 2000, the No. 60 team has a wealth of momentum.

"Sitting on the pole at California was a big accomplishment, especially in the last race of the year," Houston said. "That was a big accomplishment for us. Being in the situation we were in, we hadn't won any races and it's really easy for guys to get down and to get discouraged, but our guys worked so hard all year long and had us a competitive truck all year.

"Getting that pole and the ability to complete so many laps is a big deal for us. I think we'll be ready to go in 2000."