NAPA AutoCare 500 Advance September 28, 1999 Note: Mike Bliss will take over the driving duties this week in the Jimmy Dean Pontiac for Sunday's NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville Speedway. One of the top drivers on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck...
NAPA AutoCare 500 Advance September 28, 1999
Note: Mike Bliss will take over the driving duties this week in the Jimmy Dean Pontiac for Sunday's NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville Speedway. One of the top drivers on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Bliss reunites with crew chief Barry Dodson, who guided Bliss' efforts from 1996-98. Bliss ranks third all-time in truck series starts (118) and his seven wins rank him fifth on the circuit. During his truck series career, Bliss has won 14 poles and registered 30 top-five and 50 top-10 finishes. His $1.7 million in earnings rank him third in series' all-time money won. Last year Bliss ran in this race for Buzz McCall and later made the field at Phoenix. Interestingly, Bliss owns the NASCAR Cratsman Truck Series qualifying record at Martinsville.
MIKE BLISS (No. 30 Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix): "Barry and I have run real well together in the past. He brings so much knowledge to the table that it gives me a level of comfort and experience. I just have to worry about telling him what the car is doing and not how to fix it. I guarantee you, he'll know how to fix it. It's tough to qualify in the Winston Cup Series, but I ran well at Martinsville last season. The times are just so close when it comes to qualifying. Then you tack on 500 laps around Martinsville and because of me experience, I just really don't know what to expect. But because I've run there in the past, I do know you have to have a car that rolls through the corners and has a lot of forward bite. That's the key to getting around Martinsville. Like everyone says, it's like two dragstrips."
DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE IN A TRUCK AT MARTINSVILLE HELP YOU AT ALL? "It kind of gives me an idea of what to expect. Cars and trucks are so different. The trucks will only go so fast becauase they don't have as much downforce. I enjoy the truck series, but Winston Cup is where I'd really like to be in the long-term. There's a lot of experience I don't have, but the only way to get it is start to run the circuit."
WILL IT HELP THAT YOU'VE WORKED WITH BARRY DODSON BEFORE? "Oh, yeah. He already knows what I like setup-wise in a car. He knows how I like it to feel. We know each others attitudes and we can communicate well together. There's going to be pressure. There's even more because we know we can't rely on a provisional to make the field. So basicially, you've got to get in a great lap in first round qualifying or it's really tough to make it. I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself yet. It helps to know that Barry has assured me that we're bringing a really good Grand Prix up there. This isn't his first time as a crew chief at Martinsville. Those are the things that will give me some confidence."
HOW IS THE TRUCK SERIES AS A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE WINSTON CUP CIRCUIT? "The truck series teaches all about setups. You learn how a vehicle responds from the changes you make to it. It changes much the same way a car does. That certainly helps with communicating with your crew chief on the Winston Cup level. It's kind of funny. I'm kind of in the same situation I was last year when I ran at Martinsville. Buzz McCall was losing his sponsor and switching drivers and there was a lot of pressure to make the race. We pulled through. I qualified 25th and finished there after we got in a wreck that popped the hood up on the car. I qualified 27th at Phoenix."