NASCAR Craftsman Truck
EVERY RACING SERIES HAS ITS SILLY SEASON, AND THE END OF 1998 HAS BEEN NO EXCEPTION IN THE TRUCKS. A NUMBER OF FORD TEAMS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THIS "DOMINO PRINCIPLE". WHEN MIKE BLISS ANNOUNCED AT THE END OF AUGUST HE WOULD BE LEAVING JIMMY SMITH'S ULTRA MOTORSPORTS TEAM ASE AT THE END OF THE SEASON, RUMORS STARTED TO FLY, AND THE DUST HAS NOT COMPLETELY SETTLED.
HOWEVER, TWO DRIVERS WERE NAMED TO PROMINENT FORD TEAMS WITHIN THE PAST WEEK. MIKE WALLACE MOVES FROM KENNY SCHRADER'S CHEVROLET TO SMITH. AND RON BARFIELD HAS REJOINED THE FORD RANKS IN THE GLOY-RAHAL ICEHOUSE BEER FORD F-150.
BOTH DRIVERS TALK ABOUT HOW THEY GOT TOGETHER WITH THEIR NEW TEAMS AND THE FUTURE.
MIKE WALLACE - NO. 2 - TEAM ASE FORD F-150: "To make it real simple, Jimmy and I had been talking for a little bit of time, basically after Mike Bliss announced earlier this year that he was leaving. There had been baseline conversations on what was going on and who was going to do what. In the past couple of weeks things got a little more intense. I guess there were three people on the list. Fortunately I was the one who was chosen to be the driver for this team. The team and the ownership have proven they want to field winning vehicles. Jimmy's focus is to win races. With Barry Dodson leaving the team, both Timmy Kohuth, my crew chief for the past couple of years, and I could come over here together. It worked out very well. It's a very comfortable situation. The motor program with (Robert) Yates and with Jimmy Smith's direction, I'd say we have all the parts and pieces we need to meet the goals. The goal is to win races and contend for the championship. Jimmy feels Timmy and I have the ability to do that with the ability of the rest of the team. Our focus is real clear - to win as many races as possible, and when we can't win a race to be a top-five, top-ten truck. And then at the end of the year hopefully be in the championship spot."
WHY DID YOU LEAVE KEN SCHRADER'S TEAM? "For a while it looked like there wasn't a sponsor there. Any time the management comes up and says we don't have a sponsor, you have to start looking. So I was looking for an opportunity to win races. Kenny is a great guy. The team is all great. I have nothing but the utmost respect for everybody. I appreciated the opportunity.
"Jimmy Smith's truck team appeared to be geared and focused for what it was going to do. I think it was just a culmination of things. It makes you start looking when you don't know if you have a ride."
WHAT IS TIM KOHUTH'S BACKGROUND? "Timmy has worked for Kenny Schrader for 13 years. He originally worked for Junie Donlavey. That is where he and Schrader got to know each other. He is from Pennsylvania. He raced some dirt tracks up there with some cars he owned that somebody else drove. But for the last 13 years, he has worked for Kenny Schrader Racing, and up until the last two years he was crew chief for whatever Kenny raced - whether it was a truck deal, a Busch deal, an ARCA deal. He was his guy throughout. This was a big change for him. I think he feels like I do now. It's in our hands. We have all the parts and pieces. It's up to us.
"What makes this a positive for me is that I'm coming to a team that wants me here. They want me to drive this truck. I want to drive it. I really believe Mike Wallace is going to win some races. I hope when people look back on next year they will say he had what he needed, and look what he did."
RON BARFIELD - NO. 55 - ICEHOUSE BEER FORD F-150: "We ran Tom's (Gloy) truck a couple of years ago and we had some success. We got to be good friends. Towards the end of the season he came to me and asked, "what are you doing for next year?" And I said I didn't know, and asked what he was doing. He said he didn't know, but was there any chance of us getting together. I said I didn't know, but could we let it go a little further.
"I was interested because Tom Gloy is a racer. I think it is a good match. I think we can win races. There is communication and everybody has the same goal. We sat down after Vegas, and put it together."
HOW DID YOU AND TOM GET TOGETHER BACK IN 1997? "I didn't know Tom Gloy. All I knew was that he ran Dorsey Schroeder in Trans-Am. But I didn't know who he was. He and Bill Elliott ran a 24 Hours (race) at Daytona together. Two years ago when I was with Bill we were going to run a 15 race truck deal and 15 race Busch deal. After we ran the first truck race at Orlando Bill put the truck sponsorship on the back of the Winston Cup car. (Laughting) That ended the 15 race truck deal. Around the end of April Tom had been looking for a driver and hadn't had much success. He called Bill and said he needed a driver. Bill said he needed to put this guy who was driving for him in the truck. Bill called me and said Tom had called him looking for a driver, and he had told him to put me in the truck. He told me I could do it if I wanted to, but he said, "Tom's been awful good to me in the past". When Bill said that I knew it was somebody Bill looked up to. Tom called me the next day and we set it up. I went out to California and worked with his guys a little bit. We ran two races, and had some good runs. We qualified good at Monroe (sixth), and we qualified good at Bristol (seventh). We about knocked the wall down there.
"Tom's people have been with him over the years. They are really hard workers. I remember going back to Bill and saying, "if Tom ever wants to get rid of any employees we need to hire them". I remember all the effort they gave me. I know the ingredients are there. They have a good sponsor in IceHouse. Tom Gloy is a heck of a racer. When I drove for him, Tom brought the best out in me. That was what impressed me. His people have been together and are good working together. That is half the battle right there.
"So I'm walking into something that is halfway established. The only thing we are lacking at the moment is a crew chief. Right now we are looking for a crew chief, slash, chassis man. But the rest of the ingredients are there. I think it can be a deal that can win right out of the box. And I'm looking forward to coming back to the Fords."
WILL YOU RUN ANY ARCA OR BUSCH RACES IN 1999? "I may do that. I told Tom I wanted to run as much as possible. I may run a few ARCA races, but I don't know about Busch. If I can get in a good car I want to get in it for the seat time. I just want to make sure I don't overload myself. I want to focus my attention on the truck deal, and give it 110 percent. I like to run the ARCA race at Daytona. I love Daytona and Talladega. I like Charlotte. I like Atlanta. I like the speedway race tracks. I want to stay on those tracks to stay up on things. I think running those tracks makes me better when the trucks go to Texas. But I'm not going to jeopardize what I've got going in the trucks. In the past I've just wanted to run, run, run, and to be honest, I think I was a little bit overloaded. Sometimes you need a weekend off to gather your thoughts."
WHY DID YOU LEAVE CHARLES HARDY? "Charles did a lot for me, even when I was at Bill Elliott's. Charles is a heck of a person. I guess we parted ways because I am a person who wants to get started on the next year. Charles hadn't signed a sponsor. He will eventually sign a sponsor, but I wanted to get prepared for 1999, get ready and go testing. I didn't want to be waiting until December or January. I went to Charles a couple of months ago and asked what we were going to do. He said he had to find a sponsor. Then I asked what would happen if he didn't get a sponsor, and he said he'd get one, but he might have to lay some people off for a until he got one.
"Then the IceHouse deal came along, and it was really a good deal. Tom had talked to me in the middle of the year when he was changing drivers. I told him I was locked up in a deal. I've never had a contract, but whenever I've told somebody I was going to do something it was a done deal. That's how it was with Charles. I told Charles I would be with him through 1998. And that's what I told Tom in the middle of the year.
"Charles is a heck of a person, and he gave me a great shot in this business. I'll be grateful to him just like I am to Bill Elliott. Bill did so much for me. Charles Hardy and Bill Elliott stuck their necks out for me. That's what put me where I am today."