Menard, Reffner look forward to 2000 By Brett Borden

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 16, 1999) Mama said there'd be days like this.

Bryan Reffner and John Menard, the even-tempered odd couple of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, got to experience both the highs and lows of racing earlier this week at Daytona International Speedway. Driving the No. 3 Chevrolet on the high banks, Reffner put up the eighth best lap time of some 29 trucks at the test.

Team owner Menard, who made his racing name in the open-wheel ranks, had to be happy with that until the team lost a motor on the second day, grinding its productivity to a halt. Despite the disappointment, Menard seemed quite content in his new role in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

"This is pretty awesome," he said. "To be here at Daytona for the first race with these trucks is pretty exciting. I think the fans are going to see a great race. I know our team is certainly excited about the possibility of running here.

"I think that at least the truck series is an awful lot like the Indy Racing League that we're kind of used to running in that everyone seems extremely friendly and there's a kind of family atmosphere. It's a lot of fun. I've met a lot of interesting people. I think it's great."

Except for that motor situation. It may have rained on the team's parade, but even Menard could find a silver lining on that cloud.

"In the short run it sure sets you back," he said. "But in the long run, I suppose, at least we got some practice changing engines, which undoubtedly will come in handy down the line. You've got to take the good with the bad.

"We were hoping to get out and do something -- some quick laps today and of course that's not going to happen. We'll just come back for the next test and be a little more ready."

Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year Reffner's fastest lap on the 2.5-mile trioval was 185.326 mph. He was the third-fastest Chevrolet at the test, behind only two-time series champion Jack Sprague and Lyndon Amick, a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division regular driving NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran Ken Schrader's truck.

"It's going along pretty good," said Reffner, who has hung with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for the better part of four years now, driving for a multitude of owners. "We just had to go through an engine change we weren't really looking forward to. So that set us back as far as the track time.

"We wanted a lot of track time. But this is racing, and that's part of it. All in all, being able to throw it together and get here, we were about 90 percent ready to do a serious test and it gets us up to speed quick and we'll be more prepared for the next one."

Following the O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in October, Menard purchased Richard Childress' truck operation. The team, with driver Jay Sauter, won two of the last three races of the season, including the superspeedway show on the 1.5-mile Texas oval.