Houston Hammers Home Hard Fought 11th Place Finish at Martinsville Team ASE/Carquest Dodge Battles For Best Finish Of 2004 NCTS Season MARTINSVILLE, VA (April 17, 2004) - Andy Houston faced a variety of challenges in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck...
Houston Hammers Home Hard Fought 11th Place Finish at Martinsville Team ASE/Carquest Dodge Battles For Best Finish Of 2004 NCTS Season
MARTINSVILLE, VA (April 17, 2004) - Andy Houston faced a variety of challenges in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway - lapped traffic, inexperienced drivers and NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip - but was ultimately unable to win the track position battle. Houston charged from dead last in the 36 truck field to the 11th position, but could advance no further as the laps wound down in the Kroger 250, held at the tight and demanding Virginia short track.
"Track position means everything here at Martinsville," Houston said following the event. "We worked hard for that. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series division is as tough as I've ever seen it. Everybody runs the same speed. It's kind of like the NEXTEL of trucks. The whole field is very competitive. To start dead last and come home 11th, we're not jumping up and down about it, but it's a good momentum builder. We took a hit in the points the first two races, so this was a good points day for us. When we get to Mansfield (Ohio) we're going to have something for them. I feel 100 percent confident. Dennis Connor is a great crew chief, and this is a great race team. They gained me as many spots in the pits as I gained on the track today. We're getting this Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge back up front where it needs to be. We're going to put all the stuff that happened in the first two races behind us and move along because I think we have something to build on."
Houston was forced to start shotgun in the field after his Team ASE/CARQUEST crew made an engine change following his 14th place qualifying run. When the green flag fell he quickly worked his way through the field, running lap times commensurate with the leaders. Shortly before the halfway mark of the event Houston passed his Ultra Motorsports teammate Ted Musgrave to climb into the top ten. It was a combination of skirmishes, however, that hampered his bid for a top finish. Just past the lap 160 mark, Houston was involved in an incident with the lapped truck driven by Joe Aramendia. The damage to the right front bumper required immediate attention and crew chief Dennis Connor called Houston to pit road for the much needed repair. After exiting the pits in the 17th spot, Houston once again made a mad dash toward the front. When NASCAR extended the race for its green-white-checker scenario, Houston's run set up a confrontation with NASCAR veteran and former three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip.
"Darrell Waltrip got a little excited there at the end I think," Houston said. "Chad Chaffin didn't get started real good on the restart, and not wanting to crash him for just one position, I cut him a little break there getting into one and Darrell got in the side of me and got me crossways. He had a pretty good head of momentum getting into three and I think he just got in there too deep. I went up the racetrack on purpose because I knew he was underneath me. I tried to give him all the room I possibly could. I knew all I had to do was drag race him off two more corners and we'd beat him. I felt him hit me a little bit and I guess he spun around, but that says a lot about a guy that races only two or three times a year. It was real hot today, and he was up on that wheel at the end of the race, that's for sure."
Rick Crawford won the event in a close battle with short track ace Dennis Setzer. Houston moved up five positions - from 24th to 19th - in the chase for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points championship. He currently sits only 79 points out of the 10th position. A series record 24 drivers completed all 254 laps of the Kroger 250. Only two starters in a field of 36 failed to finish, establishing another series mark.
The next race for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway on Sunday May 16th. The event will be broadcast live by MRN Radio, XM Satellite Radio and the Speed Channel at 2pm ET.