Menard purchases Childress' truck team By Dave Rodman FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 16, 1999) On the eve of possibly winning his second championship in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, team owner John Menard Saturday said at Texas Motor Speedway he...
Menard purchases Childress' truck team By Dave Rodman
FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 16, 1999) On the eve of possibly winning his second championship in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, team owner John Menard Saturday said at Texas Motor Speedway he would own a former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship winning operation within two days. Menard, who was in Texas for Sunday's Mall.com IRL finale, said he would deliver a check to NASCAR multiple team owner Richard Childress on Monday to take ownership of seven Chevrolet Silverado trucks.
"If it wasn't for the (IRL) race we're involved with, we would've delivered it this weekend," said Menard, whose driver Greg Ray won the PPG Pole for Saturday's race, expanding his point lead over former champion Kenny Brack.
In addition, Menard, who plans to debut a full-season truck program in 2000 with former NCTS Rookie of the Year Bryan Reffner as the driver and general manager, said he was "99 percent complete" with deals for an engine supplier and a sponsor for 2000. He said the sponsorship was with a company he had had previous dealings with and was already a "handshake deal."
He added he expected to close within a week on a 44,000-square-foot shop that formerly housed Dick Simon Racing, a CART Fed-Ex Championship and more recently IRL team. That facility is located near the Indianapolis International Airport.
"We will base both the IRL team and the truck team there," said Menard, whose primary business is the Menard Inc. chain of home improvement warehouses. "It's a complete race shop -- a real nice facility."
Menard, who won the 1997 IRL title with current NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year point leader Tony Stewart, said he did not plan to race until the 2000 season opener, although he said he hoped to have a truck on track for testing "within 45 days, hopefully sooner than that."
"We've got about three guys lined up as crewman who are solid," said Menard, adding that the biggest delay was not wanting to interrupt current programs. "We don't want to mess up anyone's deals. That would not be an appropriate way to do it. We're just looking to go racing and pay our dues."
Menard has made no secret of the fact he's like to gradually progress to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, but he said he has a firm grip on the program's direction, as well.
"If we can do well in the truck series, we'd like to eventually move up to the Winston Cup Series," he said, "but if we couldn't do well in the trucks there really wouldn't be any point to move up, would there?
"We want to be there with an excellent team that runs up front. I won't be happy unless we're running among the top five or six cars. Having said that I understand that's a tall order but that's our goal."
Menard said his organization's championship mettle in the IRL would certainly not be a liability.
"I sure hope some of it would transfer over to our NASCAR program," he said. "Time will tell if it does, but really they are all racing vehicles and you've got to do the same basic things to them. The small things make a big difference."
To that end, Menard said Childress had offered him "an open book as far as set-ups for the trucks go."
Childress won the inaugural 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship with driver Mike Skinner and went to win 16 races in two seasons with his current NASCAR Winston Cup driver. Childress' team has won the last two 1999 NCTS races with driver Jay Sauter, who has four career NCTS victories in Childress trucks and who has won at least one race a year for the past three seasons.
Sauter won the O'Reilly 300 on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Both Childress and Sauter will compete in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division next season. Childress will field a car for Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kevin Harvick while Sauter will drive Chevrolets for Agajanian-Curb Motorsports.