Fort Worth: David Starr - NASCAR spotlight

David Starr all revved up for Texas homecoming. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 4, 2002) - Texan David Starr has accomplished something no recent Dallas Cowboys team has done: return home from a lengthy road trip No. 1 in the standings. Starr,...

David Starr all revved up for Texas homecoming.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 4, 2002) - Texan David Starr has accomplished something no recent Dallas Cowboys team has done: return home from a lengthy road trip No. 1 in the standings.

Starr, driver of the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet, has become this season's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series"overnight sensation," a virtual worst-to-first, Cinderella story.

And the clock doesn't appear to be approaching midnight any time soon.

The 34-year-old Houston native, who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and instructs students at the Team Texas race driving school at Texas Motor Speedway, has strung together a perfect six-for-six top-10 finishing streak in 2002.

That has vaulted Starr and the Spears team to first in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings entering Friday's $605,893 O'Reilly 400 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

Starr, who has driven for dozen different owners since joining the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on a limited basis in 1998, first headed the points following the May 5 event at Gateway International Raceway. He slipped to second place two weeks later but with a season-best, fourth-place performance in the May 31 MBNA America 200 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, regained the lead by four points over veteran Mike Bliss.

"The only way I can thank (owners Wayne and Connie Spears) is to win a race," said Starr, who finished a career-best third in last June's O'Reilly 400."Then they can understand how thankful I am for the opportunity."

To understand what Starr is saying is to look at some series history. Spears, winner owner of three NASCAR Winston West Series titles (Bill Sedgwick and Kevin Harvick) and a Featherlite Southwest Series crown (Roman Calczynski) of NASCAR Touring, has fielded a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry in 174 of 176 events.

Spears remains 0-for-174, his best finishes a pair of seconds with Sedgwick in 1995, the first season of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Spears has tried just about everything: drivers - nine in all - and nearly as many crew chiefs.

This year, with Starr, veteran crew chief Dave McCarty, new trucks and - for the first time out-of-house - a Ron Hutter engine program, Spears has hit paydirt.

"It's way too early to count your chickens," said Spears, a Southern California-based manufacturer of plastic valves and piping."There's no doubt, though, that something special is happening and we're definitely on the right track."

Adds McCarty, a three-time series winner with Rich Bickle and Darrell Waltrip Motorsports,"The team just needed a little more direction. Like a lot of teams, it was close but just needed a little help to get over the edge.

"David is still improving. I've had to realize that, yes, he's been around but he hasn't done it (a complete season) for a long time. In some aspects, he's a rookie. He's going to do nothing but get better."

Starr's only full year on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series was 1999, when he competed in 24 events for five owners and finished 22nd in the point standings. He has a typical NASCAR resume: champion at Big H Speedway near Houston in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Presented by Dodge, a victory in NASCAR Winston West and, in 1997, nine wins in 12 starts on a southwest regional late model tour.

All of that got Starr to the national stage. And there he has paid his dues, driving for teams with few resources - and getting his helmet handed to him by the likes of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champions Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague and Greg Biffle.

"It's tough to race against the sponsors, money and resources the other teams have," said Starr, reflecting on seasons past."But my father always told me,' you've got to enjoy the tough times to enjoy the good times.' I always thought in my mind, if I just could find a team that had (resources), I could beat all those guys."

Starr, who hasn't finished outside the top 10 in his last 10 starts (dating to June 8, 2001 in Texas), likely will win soon - possibly this week. He has finished fourth and third in his past two starts at TMS, where he has clocked thousands of laps as an instructor and led six laps of last year's event.

Starr just flat likes Texas Motor Speedway, a 180 mph-plus layout that has confounded many competitors and produced eight consecutive different winners.

"The racing's fast and I like to go fast," Starr said."I've run better at the bigger tracks, so it's wonderful that I run well at my home track. It fits my style - put it to the floor."

In fact, Starr hasn't had much luck at all on the series' shorter venues - all but one of his 10 top-10 efforts and every one of his five top-five finishes coming on tracks of a mile or greater in distance.

He chalks some of it that up to lack of experience, equipment and personnel.

"They've said,' ah, he's just a speedway driver,'" Starr said."Now, I've got a great race team. It doesn't matter how big or small the track is or whether it's fast or slow."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , Darrell Waltrip , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Mike Bliss