Gateway Nothing New for Joe Ruttman

New track nothing new for Ruttman By Shawn A. Akers MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 18, 1998) Heading to yet another new race track, Gateway International Raceway, this week, doesn't phase Joe Ruttman in the least. The 53-year-old driver of the...

New track nothing new for Ruttman By Shawn A. Akers

MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 18, 1998) Heading to yet another new race track, Gateway International Raceway, this week, doesn't phase Joe Ruttman in the least.

The 53-year-old driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has raced at so many tracks during his lengthy and illustrious career that getting used to one more isn't a big deal for him.

"I really don't have any idea how many tracks I've been to. I really need to set down and put them all together," said Ruttman, currently third in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings heading into Saturday's Ram Tough 200 Presented by Pepsi. "Years and years ago it was 180-some. And then I bought the National Speedway Directory, and I kind of counted up again, and I was at 250. I've got to believe it's now about 350 tracks I've raced at. It's kind of neat, and this week I'll add two more."

Ruttman, who began racing stock cars since 1963, put yet another new venue behind him last weekend when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series visited Memphis Motorsports Park for the first time (where he qualified a disappointing 29th and finished fourth), making it took weeks in a row at a new track.

He took to the 1.25-mile Gateway International Raceway for only the second time ever during morning practice for the Ram Tough 200 Presented by Pepsi on Friday (he tested there recently).

Ruttman was the fastest of 31 trucks during the morning practice session, turning a fast lap of 130.677 mph, compared to that of 130.560 of series point leader Jack Sprague, the second-fastest truck.

"I did not test good at Gateway so it will be interesting to see how we do," Ruttman said. "But I'm looking forward to going back to Gateway. We've compiled some data, and maybe there are some things we can try and maybe improve on it."

Heading into Friday afternoon's first-round qualifying session, Ruttman had won a pair of Bud Poles this season to go along with his one victory at Watkins Glen in the Parts America 150.

Ruttman's Roush Racing teammate, Greg Biffle, also tested at Gateway as well as at Memphis prior to each race. The driver of the No. 50 Grainger Ford, 25 years the junior of Ruttman, tested much better than Ruttman and the No. 99 Exide Batteries team at both places. Biffle qualified in the top-five at Memphis, while Ruttman started from near the back of the field.

"There's that much difference between the drivers (laughing)," Ruttman said. "No, really there is a difference between the drivers. But (at Memphis), we were totally on a different path than what Goss (Biffle's crew chief Randy Goss) was with the 50 truck. After qualifying we were, not forced, but we pulled back and were probably more conventional which is probably closer to what Goss has in the 50 truck. I wish that we could have continued our route that we were on and tested with.

"I think ever truck has it's own little personality differences, and that is one of the things we have really set out this year to try to determine. All the little differences, maybe a 16th here or an eighth there doesn't seem like much when you set out to try to measure it with a measuring stick, but it is a huge difference with the way the thing performs on the race track. It's not impossible, but it's difficult to set two trucks up and expect them to do exactly the same thing. And the difference in driving style comes into effect. And then whatever the ultimate goal is also plays a part."

While Ruttman is higher in the point standings, he admits that his rookie teammate has run better than him on a consistent basis recently. And it's Biffle that Ruttman has targeted as one of the drivers to beat this weekend at Gateway International.

"Greg probably has the best truck out there right now," Ruttman said. "I've told the guys that when I'm running with another good truck, I'm not shooting to catch up, I'm shooting to get better. Sometimes you are successful. That's always been my motto, I want to be better. In other words, if he's real good I want to beat him. I don't just want to stay up with him, I want to beat him. And to do that, if you do exactly the same that he's done, at best, chances are you are going to catch him.

"And that's what we've been working on this weekend -- a system where we can be better. It didn't prove out in qualifying. With the peer pressure between the two teams, a lot of the stuff that we tried we took off the truck so that if we did run poorly here it wouldn't ruin the opportunity down the road where we can try it again. I want to get a step up. I want to be number one, and even as good as you think you can drive, you want to have mechanical advantages if you can, and that's what I was aiming at -- mechanical advantage, and it didn't work out in qualifying."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Jack Sprague , Joe Ruttman