Martinsville Thursday Notebook

NAPA 250 Thursday Notebook By Dave Rodman MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1999) Notes and quotes Thursday leading up to Saturday's NAPA 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway: Rich Bickle was seeking to set the record ...

NAPA 250 Thursday Notebook By Dave Rodman

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1999) Notes and quotes Thursday leading up to Saturday's NAPA 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway:

Rich Bickle was seeking to set the record straight in the Martinsville Speedway garage area Thursday afternoon, as he intro'ed the No. 45 10-10-345 Ford F-150 he will qualify for Saturday's NAPA 250. The author of a NASCAR Online tale of Bickle's exploits in the No. 15 Black Diamond Ford in 1998 had his facts a little reversed.

"That was my truck -- this truck -- out of my shop," Bickle said genially.

Rich Wauters, who does co-own the No. 15 Black Diamond Ortho Ford being driven by Joe Ruttman this weekend, was simply the crew chief for that effort last year, which included a 5th for Bickle at Martinsville, a 6th at Richmond and a run for Scott Hansen at Milwaukee while Bickle was occupied at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona.

Bickle is both the Bud Pole Qualifying and race record holder at Martinsville, which he set in 1997.

Ronnie Hornaday III, a NASCAR Winston Racing Series veteran at the tender age of 19, will have sponsorship from Fluidyne for his hoped-for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut in the NAPA 200 driving a No. 97 Chevrolet owned by his parents. He is jazzed about the opportunity, but after testing Wednesday 32nd fastest out of 37 trucks he'll have to pick up some speed in practice Friday to make the show, which takes the 31 quickest trucks on time. Hornaday III is the grandson of Ron Hornaday, a two-time NASCAR Winston West Series champion. His father, of course, is Ron Hornaday Jr., the two-time and defending truck champion.

Depending on who qualifies for the NAPA 250, as many as three NASCAR Winston Cup Series pit crews could be trying to provide an edge for their drivers. Bobby Hamilton (Kodak Film/Morgan-McClure) and Bickle (10-10-345/Tyler Jet) will use their Cup squads, while series point leader Hornaday says Richard Childress Racing's GM Goodwrench Service Plus team would pit son Ronnie Hornaday III's truck if he makes the show.

Mike Swaim Jr., the former champion of the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring, has taken over the seat of the No. 27 Hastings Premium Filters Ford for the NAPA 250. Former driver Ernie Cope, cousin of NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Derrike Cope, said Thursday he was "not gonna drive any more." Cope, who won races in both the NASCAR Winston West Series and Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring, before heading to the East Coast, had distinguished himself more as a crew chief than a driver in that time and said that is the direction he's heading.

"We just weren't doing good and we needed to make a change," said Cope, 29, who added that he would continue to assist No. 27 crew chief and team owner Mike Albernaz. "There was no grief between us about it, but I needed to get back to working as a crew chief. I'm going to keep giving Mike a hand until I can get something permanent -- either in trucks or the Busch Series. I'm not going to just take any job -- I want it to be the right opportunity."

Albernaz said he is taking his decision on a future driver "one race at a time."

Jimmy Hensley is one tickled race truck driver. He only has to commute 10 miles from his home in Horsepasture, Va., to Martinsville. "It's nice to finally stay home and sleep in my own bed," said Hensley, who might have had tongue somewhat in cheek because he's in the midst of some major home remodeling that has gone on for a while, due to his busy schedule, and has caused he and wife Becky to sometimes use an absent daughter's bedroom.

"I love racing at Martinsville, not just because it's close to my home but I love the race track. I've probably raced more laps at Martinsville than any other place in my career."

Hensley had a fender-banging finish with Ron Hornaday last year that resulted in a 2nd-place finish while Jay Sauter slid by both of them for a possible ride-saving victory.

"Last year's race is one that will be in my mind for a long time," said the driver of the Dodge Motorsports Dodge. "Hornaday and I put on a great show for the fans -- we just didn't win the race like we planned. Second place was not what we were shooting for, but that's better than 22nd, I guess."

Forty-three trucks were physically on the grounds Thursday afternoon at Martinsville. The only entered truck not on site is the No. 35 of Billy Venturini, which had minor contact with the outside wall during Wednesday's test session. Along with the new looks for Ruttman and Bickle, Shane Jenkins had Garage Doors of Naples (Florida) on his No. 81 Ford and B.A. Wilson had the local Ashland Ford dealership on his No. 85 F-150.

So far in the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, only two teams have finished higher than they started in all four races to date. Surprisingly, they are the squads of USG SHEETROCK Brand Rookie of the Year candidate Mike Stefanik in the Carlin Burners & Controls Ford and sophomore Kevin Cywinski in the Auto Trim Design Ford. Not surprisingly, both are also in the top-10 in points.

Tough Trucks? A NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver has not won a race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since Mark Martin won at North Wilkesboro, N.C., in September 1996.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , Derrike Cope , Bobby Hamilton , Jay Sauter , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Joe Ruttman , Ronnie Hornaday III , Jimmy Hensley , Mark Martin , Scott Hansen
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Carlin