Mesa Marin: Team Racing preview

Team Racing coming home to California. (Bakersfield, Calif.) - This weekend's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. is a homecoming for Team Racing. With Californian's Phil Bonifield of Napa and Lance...

Team Racing coming home to California.

(Bakersfield, Calif.) - This weekend's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. is a homecoming for Team Racing. With Californian's Phil Bonifield of Napa and Lance Hooper of Palmdale, both are looking forward to good finishes . . . but this time not as drivers.

"I am going to play the role of owner this weekend," said Bonifield, who typically pilots the No. 23 Red Line Synthetic Oil Chevrolet Silverado and has 46 career starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "Dana (White) is going to drive for me this weekend. I have Lance as a crew chief for T.J. (Bell) in the No. 86 truck. I want him to help T.J. get around this half-mile racetrack."

Hooper has two poles and two wins at Mesa Marin Raceway. In 1995, Hooper won from the pole in a NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series event en route to the series championship. Hooper came back the following year and won a NASCAR Winston West Series event and again won the championship only this time in his rookie year, a feat yet to be repeated.

"It will be good to come home to California," said Hooper, who has 54 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts. "This is my home track where I've run a lot of laps. I understand the characteristics of this racetrack when it is hot and sunny and when it is cool and fast at night. I hope to translate my experience to T.J. throughout the weekend and get a good finish out of this weekend."

T.J. Bell, driver of the No. 86 Defiant Clothing / Speed Motorsports Management Chevrolet Silverado will attempt to qualify for his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event. His tentative 18-race deal with Team Racing is a different style from his open-wheel days. The Reno, Nevada native has been eager to get behind the wheel and hopes to run well his first time out.

"I really can't wait to get this weekend going," said Bell, who tested Wednesday at Caraway Speedway in Caraway, N.C. in preparation of this weekend's event. "I have raced open-wheeled cars mostly on road courses but like most other NASCAR drivers, they started their careers on the short tracks.

"Lance has a lot of experience here both in a race car and truck. With his knowledge of how to drive here at Mesa Marin, we should be able to quickly learn how to get around here and get in some fast laps."

Bonifield, who became a truck owner in 1996, has participated in every event at Mesa Marin Raceway, either as an owner or as a driver since entering the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. His best success was as an owner when driver Brandon Sperling finished 18th in only his second career start.

"Mesa Marin is a great short track with two grooves of racing," said Bonifield, who last competed at Mesa Marin Raceway as a driver in 2000. "The racetrack can be oily and dusty at times but race fans will see the beatin' and bangin' of fenders all the way to victory lane. With a little luck, Team Racing could very well get a good finish come Sunday."

-tr-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers T.J. Bell , Lance Hooper , Phil Bonifield