NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Notebook By Brett Borden

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 11, 1998) Notes and quotes from Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series banquet:

Ridge Gate, Inc., owner of the Ridge Gate Motorsports Nos. 38 and 39 Chevrolets, and Motion Sports, LLC, owner of the PacWest S/T Motorsports No. 78 Dodge team, announced before the banquet that they are merging their racing operations to form Ridge Gate Motion Sports. The new team will run two Dodges in 1999, with Bryan Reffner driving the No. 78 and Mike Clark and Dominic Dobson sharing driving duties for the No. 38. The team looks to announce a primary sponsor in the future, but for now the associate sponsor on both trucks will be Ridge Gate Mortgage. The team also has added Steven Costello, who served as general manager for the PacWest S/T Motorsports team, to the same role for the new two-truck team.. "This is an incredible opportunity both for me and for the Ridge Gate Motion Sports team," said Reffner. "We have top-notch equipment, we're putting together terrific crews, and everyone has a genuine desire to win. I'm going to do everything possible to make sure that happens." "One year ago I stood at this podium and really didn't know what I was getting myself into," said Dobson. "This year we're looking forward to an affiliation that we expect to be very successful. We're hoping the old saying is true, that one plus one equals three."

Stacy Compton won the award for Most Popular Driver, a very popular decision among those present at the banquet. Compton looked surprised to win his award, saying "I didn't think my mom and girlfriend could vote that many times. There are so many good guys in this series like Jimmy Hensley. In fact, I just told my girlfriend 'Jimmy's gonna win this thing - you watch'."

Mike Bliss had the most creative speech amongst the top 10 drivers. Before actually speaking, Bliss attached a 'For Hire' sign onto the podium. After an emotional speech thanking crew chief Barry Dodson and truck owner Jimmy Smith, Bliss finished on a light note, saying "I hope the sign works."

Tony Raines staked claim to a championship in his own right. During his acceptance speech for fifth in the final NCTS standings, Raines said "I'm proud to say I'm part of the highest-finishing team not affiliated with a Winston Cup team." Ron Hornaday is associated with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Jack Sprague is part of the Hendrick Motorsports organization. Joe Ruttman receives paychecks from Jack Roush. And Jay Sauter works for Richard Childress.

Ruttman maintained his status as class clown in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He challenged the standard acceptance speeches by saying "I should thank Ron Hornaday for beating me? I shouldn't do that. Why should I thank him?"

Jack Sprague had the unenviable task of following Ruttman on stage to accept his second-place spoils. "I hate to follow Ruttman ... on and off the track," said Sprague, who spent a good deal of his speech acknowledging the special rivalry that he and Ron Hornaday have had the last few years, especially this year. "It just doesn't get any better than what we had," said Sprague.

It was a special night for Fred Graves, the crew chief for Hornaday who is leaving to work with his son and Terry Labonte's NASCAR Winston Cup team next season. Graves chose to leave his old team with kind words, saying "I personally want to thank you guys for letting me be your leader." Team owner Dale Earnhardt said "We're going to miss Fred. He's going to be a tremendous asset to Hendrick Motorsports." Those sentiments were later echoed by Hornaday himself. "More power to ya," he said to his departing crew chief and friend. "Good luck, but you'll be back. Trust me - you'll be back." After the banquet Hornaday said "I've got to quit praising my crew chiefs. Every time I praise them they're gone."

Source: NASCAR Online