Trucks back to business as usual at Homestead By Dave Rodman HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2000) Get the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series away from the daunting high banks of Daytona International Speedway and it's right back to business as usual for...
Trucks back to business as usual at Homestead By Dave Rodman
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2000) Get the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series away from the daunting high banks of Daytona International Speedway and it's right back to business as usual for the "Tough Trucks" that continue to write a new chapter on competitiveness. While the inaugural Daytona 250 on Feb. 18 did set series records for lead changes and leaders, much of what occurred at the "World Center of Racing" was out of character for the six-year-old pickup truck racing series.
But enter the second race of the 24-race campaign, Saturday's Florida Dodge Dealers 400K at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and you had all the twists and swerves that the series has become famous for.
Just after the halfway point of the race, everyone who could be considered a threat to win the season championship was in the top-10 and seriously looking at a chance for the victory. When 167 laps of Homestead's tough-to-tame 1.5-mile flat oval were over, the top-8 spots were occupied by legitimate title contenders.
Andy Houston, who looks to be on the verge of a breakout season, won his second career series event after a 38-race drought. And he did it with a mix of a stout CAT Rental Store Chevrolet truck, slick pit work and an opportunistic strategy. And he left Homestead with his Silverado bound for a NASCAR-mandated wind tunnel test trailing Daytona winner and Homestead runner-up Mike Wallace by only five points.
Wallace, the defending Florida Dodge Dealers 400K winner, wanted to talk handling after the race, which left his truck in the midst of a four-truck dogfight for second through fifth positions, but more than that he wanted to credit the winner.
"I'm very happy for the whole Houston family," the middle racing Wallace brother said. "I've raced against Tommy Houston (Andy Houston's father). Andy has a ton of talent. He won a couple of years ago, so this is not like his first win.
"When you have that good a truck, as a driver you know how good that feels. And you're happy for the guy that hit it that day. At the same time, the guy like me that wasn't hitting it all day and finishes well like we did, you have to be happy for too.
"Andy's group was better than us all day and deserved to win, but we're really happy with second."
Wallace wasn't the only one singing that tune. Two-time and defending series champion Jack Sprague was all over Wallace as the laps wound down in the shades of a typical truck brawl, but he couldn't get his Silverado to work well enough to capitalize. Still, after destroying his GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet in an early race melee at Daytona, he wasn't complaining.
"It was pretty good -- a lot better than last week when we finished 33rd at Daytona," Sprague said. "This GMAC Silverado was awesome the first 50 laps of this race and Dennis (Conner, crew chief) did a great job calling the race and good pit strategy.
"They keep loosenin' me up and the cloud cover came and I kept getting tighter and tighter. They freed me up and that allowed me to run third. I could have finished second but I would have had to move him (Wallace) and I didn't want to do that. I tried to get him loose in the corners and he was doin' pretty good hugging the bottom. I was just a little too tight."
Rick Crawford was a former winner at Homestead who broke his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series cherry here in 1998. On Saturday, he forecast better things after his Milwaukee Electric Tool Ford copped its first top-10 since last October, in seventh.
"I had a good truck all day," Crawford said. "The Ford F-150 drove well all day and, as you can probably tell, all I would need to do is comb my hair and we could go another 167 laps if we needed to. Our only problem was that I think we built too good of a truck.
"When we made an adjustment on it, it accepts it too well. So if you're a little loose, you can go too tight really quick so we really had to finesse it along and adjust it a little at a time. Finally we got it with about 30 to go, but the truck ran great all day.
"If today can get us started for the year 2000, I think we'll have a heck of a season."
He was one of about eight teams -- throwing in Homestead-bit Dennis Setzer -- who would like to be able to say the same thing.