NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Rob Morgan is used to turning right and left as an experienced endurance road racer. In 1999, Morgan, just 25-years-old, has become the latest driver with a road racing background to try and make the switch to the mostly-left turn, oval-based NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). Morgan was the highest-ranking Ferrari driver in the 1997 IMSA World Sports Car Class and has driven to a class win at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Currently 26th in NCTS points, Morgan hopes to improve his place in the standings with a strong run at Mesa Marin Raceway this weekend.
ROB MORGAN - 46 - Acxiom/Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Ford F-150 - CAN YOU BRING ANYTHING TO THE NCTS FROM YOUR PAST ROAD RACING EXPERIENCE? "A bunch of people have asked me that question and all that I can say is...nothing (laughing). The only thing that really carries over is the fact that you have to be as smooth and consistent as you can. That is true in any kind of competitive driving. I've got real good car feel. But the thing that I've had trouble with is that in road racing you brake in a straight line, turn, then get on the gas and go. In this series, you have to trail brake down into the corner, turn it, and go. For me it's mental thing getting used to knowing that I can trail brake going down into a corner. That is taking me some time to get used to. Because if you did that in road racing, your back end would come around every time."
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ACCELERATE YOUR LEARNING CURVE ON OVALS? "My first run on an oval was with Kevin Doran's truck team at Phoenix in 1997. I thought that I'd be able to just go out and compete well, but it's been a pretty rude awakening on ovals. My mom (Jane) has helped me a lot over the last couple of years. She bought both a Late Model and a Winston West car so that I could get some seat time on oval tracks. She's been a real help to me. This past winter I competed in the NASCAR Late Model Winter Heat Series in Tucson. It's three weekends in a row of racing. What an experience! The level of competition that I went up against was outstanding. There were over 80 cars there and we were all running within .9 seconds of each other. I had never driven a Late Model before and you talk about a learning curve. Boy, did I have a big one to deal with. It was great experience for me to get all that seat time, though. We ran the Las Vegas Winston West race too. I'm just trying to get as much oval experience as I can right now. I've still yet to race on 20 ovals. The other guys in this series have a lot more experience than I do. I'm beginning to figure it out, though. Tim Murphy, our new crew chief, is helping me and his experience is what this team really needed, but I still feel a little wet behind the ears on ovals. Ron Barfield (fellow Ford NCTS competitor) has been a huge help to me. He has taken me around the different oval tracks and given me advice and what I should and shouldn't do. Ron and I have struck up a pretty good friendship since I came to the series."
YOU'VE HAD SOME MEMORABLE ROAD RACING EXPERIENCES. TALK ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHTS. "In 1995, we won IMSA's GTO race in Mosport, Canada which was the 100th win in the series for Oldsmobile. In 1996 at Daytona, we won in GTS1 and finished seventh overall in a the first factory Aurora race car. At that time, Sports Car racing was being used as somewhat of a testing ground for the IRL. The GTS1 cars are very similar to Trans-Am cars with tube frames and about 650 horsepower. My father (Charles) and Andy Evans, who owned the Scandia racing team, made a deal to run the World Sports Car Class in 1997. We finished second overall at the Daytona 24 hours in a Ferrari and I ended the year being the highest-placing Ferrari driver. The 24-hour races are a ton of work, and the driving is so much different than driving a sprint race, which is really what we do in NASCAR. In the truck series, I've been able to tune my skills in a new way. In Sports Car racing, I was used to running either three, 12- or 24-hour endurance races. So, it wasn't how fast you went, but how smooth and consistent you are which enables you to run a competitive pace without tearing up the equipment. Endurance racing is all about being smart and not making mistakes and staying out of trouble."
THE MORGAN-DOLLAR NCTS SHOP IS LOCATED IN OKLAHOMA, FAR AWAY FROM THE CHARLOTTE (NC) AREA WHERE MANY TEAMS ARE BASED. IS THAT AN ADVANTAGE OR A DISADVANTAGE FOR YOU AND THE TEAM? "As far as saving on travel expenses it is good, because we're right in the middle of the country. David's (Dollar, team owner) trucking company is located there and the race shop is part of his company, so some of the staff people are the same. But it's tough to find good, experienced race people in that part of the country. David and I are in this venture together along with my father (Charles). We've gotten to be great friends. We both love racing and have to be involved in it in some way or another. That's why I've become part owner of the team. I want to make a career of driving, but if that doesn't work out than I'd love to be a team owner. I need to be involved in racing somehow."
HOW DID THE TEAM GET STARTED? "My first race with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports was Topeka (KS) in 1997. David has been associated with the truck series since the beginning. He ran Ford modifieds for years and when Ford went into the truck series, the company came to him and asked him to run a truck team. David built the team from the ground up. He ran limited races until this year. This is our first full year together so we're learning as we go along. We ran two races in 1998 (Topeka, Sears Point) and tried to qualify at Vegas, but the driver, meaning me, screwed up. I tried to overdrive a little bit, so we missed the show in Vegas."
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN RACING? "My dad, who is a former champion in IMSA, raced for about 20 years in SCCA, Trans-Am, SportsCar, GTP, Camel Lights and many other series. So I grew up around race tracks and got real interested at an early age. After I turned 18 and graduated from high school, I went to the Road Atlanta driving school. One month after that I entered my first road race."
WHAT ACTIVITIES DO YOU DO AWAY FROM THE RACE TRACK? "I work out a lot. I try to run up to three miles a day and also bicycle another five or six miles when I'm back home, which is tough now because I'm not in town much. I try to do cardiovascular work as much as possible and then vary my weight lifting to concentrate on different parts of my body. I love to go boating and ride my Jet Ski in the summer months."