Irvan-Simo Racing branches out By Shawn A. Akers & Dave Rodman
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 17, 1998) Irvan-Simo Racing, which has fielded a full-time entry in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series the past two years, will compete in all three major NASCAR racing series in 1999, team officials announced earlier this week. The team, owned by Mark Simo and NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Ernie Irvan, has come to an agreement with its two-year sponsor Federated Auto Parts, to back the team in eight NASCAR Winston Cup Series, six NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and three NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division events next season. Boris Said, who has driven the No. 44 Federated Auto Parts Ford for Irvan-Simo the past two years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, said he will drive in three of the truck races and no less than two NASCAR Winston Cup Series events in 1999. Irvan-Simo Racing President Lee Morse indicated that Said, an accomplished road racer, would run both NASCAR Winston Cup Series road course events, at Sears Point Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Said noted that he would run truck road races at Portland International Raceway and Heartland Park Topeka, plus the Federated Auto Parts 250 at Nashville Speedway USA and the season-ending event at the California Speedway in Fontana. The Watkins Glen truck race conflicts with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event at Sears Point, so it is not an option for the team and Said. Morse said the driver for the other six NASCAR Winston Cup Series races Irvan-Simo Racing will participate in -- at Texas, Fontana, Indianapolis, Loudon, N.H., Charlotte and Homestead, Fla. -- has yet to be determined. Said indicated he was in the running for the Texas "season opener" and Morse agreed that the team will do extensive testing to find a driver for those races, and that putting Said behind the wheel for some of those is "not out of the question." "As far as Texas goes, we're scheduled to test Jan. 17 and 18 and we're going to bring an experienced driver," Said admitted. "If I can test as fast as him I'll get to try Texas -- if not they'll have to make a decision on what we'll do." Irvan-Simo Racing will field Ford F-150s in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Ford Tauruses in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. In the NASCAR Busch Series races, however, they'll field Chevrolet Monte Carlos, which Morse said would be a joint venture with an existing NASCAR Busch Series team. Morse said Hensley Racing is a possibility for that, but nothing has been finalized. At any rate, rather than being disgruntled at being cut out of 23 truck races, Said is enthused about the long-term possibilities for the endeavor. "It's exciting," the Carlsbad, Calif. native said of the latest development. "One part of me wanted to do a whole season in the trucks because I was just getting the hang of it. But the other part is it sure would be fun to race Winston Cup, since I had a pretty neat experience at The Glen last year. Then again, part of me is wondering if Boris Said is ready to go Winston Cup racing ..." Said made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in a relief role for Jimmy Spencer in the Team Winston/No Bull Ford in The Bud at The Glen last August. He drove the car to a 20th place finish, on the lead lap, after racing into the top-10 after the driver change with Spencer, who was recovering from injuries. "Long term, I think it'll be a good situation, if I prove I can do it and make the races," Said said. "I think I'm confident I'll be good enough to be the driver they choose. The biggest question may be whether or not me and the team will be ready to make those races -- but I've got to be optimistic we will. "We have an advantage in that we have Ernie Irvan, with his experience, to draw on." Morse said Federated Auto Parts' two-year deal with Irvan-Simo Racing ended with the 1998 campaign, but that the company agreed to take on the new venture in 1999 with designs on heading into the future with the team. "Federated has loved their relationship with Irvan-Simo in the truck series, and they agreed to stay with us for this deal," Morse said. "Boris has developed tremendously as a driver in NASCAR over the past couple of years. He's come a long way. We felt that we should have had better results than what we ended up with last year. We had a lot of mechanical problems, and probably should have won all three road course races. But Boris has improved tremendously, and he could very well drive some of the oval races in Cup for us next year." Said indicated he probably would not do the 45 races he competed in in 1998, which included a Bud Pole Award for the NASCAR Busch Series Lysol 200 at Watkins Glen. He is optimistic his range may allow him to take in more NASCAR races, unlike the majority of sports car races he's run in the past. "I'm going to do 12 sports car races with BMW again," Said said of his program with Tim Milner's Prototype Technology Group. "I'm hoping I'll be able to do one-off truck or Busch races and other stuff always seems to come my way. "That seems to be sports car races, but now my goal is to make the transition to where I get some oval stuff. And, I'm going to be working hard on the team to hopefully run some of the other truck races." Irvan, who drives the No. 36 MB2 Motorsports Skittles Pontiac in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, will drive in either two or three truck races next season, at Martinsville, Richmond and possibly Fontana. He'll also participate in the three NASCAR Busch Series events -- including events at Michigan and the first races at Dover and Richmond. Jerry Baxter, who came on to lead the Irvan-Simo Racing truck team at the end of last season, will be the crew chief for the six truck races and the eight NASCAR Winston Cup Series events for Irvan-Simo Racing. Baxter previously worked with Irvan when Irvan drove Late Model cars in California in the 1970s. "Jerry did a great job for us stepping in after Jay Smith decided to leave," Morse said. "He really helped mature the team and the equipment. I think he's going to be a great asset for us next year. He and Boris worked very well together."
Source: NASCAR Online