BLISS SIGNS CONTRACT WITH EEL RIVER RACING MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 19, 1999) -- Eel River Racing owner Jack Birmingham announced today that he has hired NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Mike Bliss to pilot the team's Pontiacs beginning...
BLISS SIGNS CONTRACT WITH EEL RIVER RACING
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 19, 1999) -- Eel River Racing owner Jack Birmingham announced today that he has hired NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Mike Bliss to pilot the team's Pontiacs beginning with the 2000 season.
Bliss, who ranks in the top-five in virtually every career statistical category in the truck series, will also attempt to qualify the State Fair Brand Corn Dogs Pontiac for Sunday's Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway. He's also scheduled to compete for the team at Phoenix and Homestead.
Bliss is reuniting with Barry Dodson, who served as his crew chief for six of his seven career victories on the truck circuit. Dodson is crew chief and a part owner of the Eel River Racing team.
"Something I've wanted to do ever since I was a kid was be a Winston Cup driver," Bliss said. "I've always told myself I'd never do it unless it was the right deal. I don't want to just run on Sundays and call myself a Winston Cup driver and not be able to run up front. I don't think we're going to run up front overnight, but I see a long term deal here where we can be successful. I know I wouldn't have done this deal unless Barry was here."
Birmingham purchased the team on July 28. His hiring of Bliss is yet another step in the development of his plans to forge a competitive team in NASCAR's top series. Birmingham believes the hiring of Bliss will make his team even more attractive in his quest to find a new primary sponsor.
"We've been trying to get Mike for a considerable time now and we're delighted to have him," Birmingham said. "We spent a lot of time talking to Barry about Mike and we definitely trust Barry's instincts. He's seen first-hand what Mike can do on the track. Now that we've got a driver signed on, we can concentrate on finding a primary sponsor for next season. Mike is going to be a big plus in that search."
Dodson said the team may have a jumpstart on next year's rookie class because of their past working history together. That rookie class is shaping up as one of the biggest in recent years, with at least five full-time drivers expected to contend for the award. The other expected rookies are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Dave Blaney and Scott Pruett.
"We've worked together in the past and what we already have is what a lot of teams now lack, and that's chemistry," Dodson said. "We've already worked the past three years together. It's like we have a head start on the other teams that will have rookie drivers. It's a comfort. Having a driver you click with is the most important factor in building a successful racing team.
Mike can adapt to new race tracks as quick as any driver I've ever seen."
Bliss, 34, is 10th in the truck series point standings this season. He has one win, five top-five and 12 top-10 finishes with Roush Racing. In his career, Bliss has 14 poles, 30 top-five and 50 top-10 finishes.
Now Bliss is ready to conquer a new circuit.
"Our goal next year is to win rookie of the year," Bliss said. "That's probably our biggest goal right now. I've never been on some of these tracks, so we've got a lot of testing to do next year. We'll concentrate on making continual improvements. Eel River Racing is the right place for me. Some people may think I'm not ready, but I think I am. Barry is a big part of that. He pushed me to Jack and told him, 'This is the guy we need in the car.' Everybody wants me to be on this team and that makes me feel really good."