Roush truck racer seeks a Blissful season By Brett Borden
LIVONIA, Mich. (Jan. 13, 1999) NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Mike Bliss knows how to start up front. He also knows how to run there. Truck owner Jack Roush is banking that Bliss can finish there in 1999.
Roush hired Bliss to drive his No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season. Bliss brings six series victories -- no less than one in each year of the series existence -- 29 top-five finishes, 49 top-10s and 12 Bud Poles in a four-year NCTS career to the table.
He takes over a truck that has had some success itself. In the past two NCTS seasons, with Chuck Bown (1997) and Joe Ruttman (1998) behind the wheel, the No. 99 has one win, 18 top-fives and 32 top-10s in 53 starts.
Bliss has no trouble finding the point during races. It's staying there when the checkered flag drops that has proven to be a challenge for him, especially lately. He is eagerly awaiting the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series opener, on March 20 in the Florida Dodge Dealers 400 at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motor Sports Complex in South Florida.
In 1998, the Milwaukie, Ore., native earned four Bud Poles, nine front row starts and 17 starts in the front three rows out of 27 events. The driver of the No. 2 Team ASE Ford held the lead 26 different times in 11 of those 27 races. However, he was able to maintain that lead at the end just twice.
Bliss says he expects to change that this year, but then he expects it every year.
"Going into last year we hoped to win some races," he said. "You just can never tell. There's a lot of luck involved."
Will a change of scenery bring a change of luck? Bliss feels he can make his own luck by driving differently than he did in 1998.
"I think I can perform better just by driving more patiently," he said. "Winning the race comes later rather than sooner. A perfect example is last season at Bakersfield (Mesa Marin Raceway). I led most of the race but I used up my tires and that was the difference. The other guys had good tires at the end and I spun out trying to keep up with them.
"I don't think the 2 truck was that far off as far as equipment goes, but the major differences I see between the teams is that Roush builds his own chassis and he has a lot more resources in terms of people. We had like seven people to work on the 2 truck. We'll have about 30 at Roush."
Bliss recently visited Livonia, Mich., outside Detroit, which is currently home base of Roush Racing, to get acquainted with many of those 30 people, including crew chief Matt Chambers. He says that upcoming testing at Homestead will go a long way toward developing team chemistry.
"We're going at the end of the month," Bliss said. "When we get down there it will say a lot right there."
Roush is known as a tough man to drive for -- one who expects a lot from his drivers. He certainly expects a lot out of Bliss.
"(Bliss) has enough experience and talent to get into the No. 99 and be competitive immediately," said the man in the straw hat when he hired Bliss in December. "He's been one of the most competitive drivers on the series and we're happy to have him join our team. We believe he and Greg Biffle (driver of the No. 50 Grainger Ford, Roush's second team) will work well together."
Source: NASCAR Online