Mile Wallace looks to maintain points lead at Portland

PORTLAND, OR (April 18, 2000) - Five races into the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series campaign, Crew Chief Tim Kohuth has proven to be a man for all seasons leading Mike Wallace and the ...

PORTLAND, OR (April 18, 2000) - Five races into the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series campaign, Crew Chief Tim Kohuth has proven to be a man for all seasons leading Mike Wallace and the #2 Team ASE Ford to the top of the championship standings. Included in the team's early successes have been a win on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway oval and a victory on the tight half-mile Bakersfield, CA bullring. This week, Kohuth and his Team ASE crew will have a different test - the nine-turn, 1.95-mile Portland International Raceway road course. "I feel like we're pretty good at this road racing stuff," said Kohuth. "Our preparation is good enough that we're usually pretty close to being on top when we unload at the race track. We sent Mike to the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving last year and he felt like he learned quite a bit there. A lot of winning on a road course is pure driver. I don't think any one driver can say his vehicle is handling all that well. After all, we're road racing pickup trucks. There's a lot of manhandling going on here. It's not like we're racing formula cars." What Kohuth and the rest of the truck series teams are racing is a 3,400 pound, 700 horsepower behemoth. It's big, wide and high truck body isn't exactly suited for slicing through the air. This is definitely not your garden variety road racer. With that in mind, Kohuth and the team specifically built a road race vehicle in an effort to give Wallace the best racing package possible. "We built a road racing truck last year because these trucks are normally built to turn to the left," said Kohuth. "Everything on an oval track truck is mounted to the left side of the chassis for weight distribution and to help the truck turn. On a road racing truck, you also turn to the right quite a bit so we try to distribute the weight a lot more equally from the left to the right. For example, the battery will be mounted on the opposite side of the vehicle. There are a lot of other little components that will move from one side to the other as well." With the weight distribution questions answered, the #2 Team ASE Ford also has to have a number of special parts for road racing that aren't normally used on the oval wars. "You need a good set of brakes mounted on the truck for a road course race," stated Kohuth. "We just came from Martinsville, VA where we raced on a real tight, half-mile oval. You need a good set of brakes there too. Road racing is pretty simple to figure out - it's just turning back and fourth and to do that you usually need a good balanced truck and a good set of brakes. If you have those and they don't fail, you're usually in good shape. "We'll also use a special driveline and transmission on the road courses," Kohuth continued. "We have the transmission specially built and we also run a cooler on the transmission to make it last all day long. The gear ratios are specifically figured for each track. I'm going with a different combination than I did last year, and I think it will make us a little better. We weren't bad last year finishing 11th, so I'm looking to make things a little bit better this time around. I'll also bring a couple of other transmissions with us on the transporter just in case we want to try something a little bit different. In general, road course racing puts more wear and tear on everything on the truck, so you have to be prepared to change something if it doesn't work out." Working out the best line around the race track is usually the driver's job. Once Wallace has determined where he wants to be fast, it's up to Kohuth and the Team ASE crew to make Wallace happy. "It seems like there's a corner on every road course that the driver feels is the most important," said Kohuth. "You have throw away a couple of the other corners and work to make that one corner the best for the driver. At Portland, those are the two corners leading onto and off the main straight. The problem at a place like Portland is you can't be just as fast as the guy in front of you. If that's the case, you'll never pass him. Most of these road course events turn out to be track position races, so you have to be good in a couple of key spots on the track where you can pass all day long safely." Unlike Daytona, where aerodynamics rule the superspeedways, small ovals and road courses don't rely as heavily on the aero package to make the truck go fast. Then again, aero still plays a part in any winning effort, regardless of the track configuration, according to Kohuth. "We're going to be fast enough on certain places of the Portland track where aerodynamics will make a big difference," said Kohuth. "We're going to do everything we can to make the front end of the Team ASE truck stick to the track. Making your racer turn is the difference between winning and losing. No matter where we go, if we can make our trucks more aerodynamically sound, and make them turn for us, we've got a great shot at winning." The final area Team ASE will address is the driver's compartment. With most of the series races on ovals, everything is keyed to make the driver comfortable as he and the truck battle the centrifugal force of left hand turns. With the truck turning both left and right on the road course, adjustments have to be made to keep the driver safe and comfortable. "A lot of teams will have to change the drivers seat and the bracing for a road course event," said Kohuth. "Mike went to a different seat last year that provides some added safety features and additional bracing on both sides of the seat, so we really don't have to change much there. We probably have more safety bracing protecting the driver than most teams. We also change a couple of other things inside the truck like the foot pedals to help Mike with his shifting ability. We definitely spend some extra time with that." In the end, Kohuth's main goal will be to keep Wallace at the top of the point standings. Given their recent string of top performances - two wins, two seconds, and two pole positions in the first five races of the season- Kohuth is confident the Team ASE Ford can run near the front again this weekend "I think we can continue our hot streak at Portland," said Kohuth. "I think if we could come out of there with a third-place finish or better, that would be great. You know there will probably be some sort of road race ringer like Boris Said or Ron Fellows there, so third would be a great weekend. Last year at Watkins Glen (NY), Fellows just nipped us for the win. We were best in class that day and I'd be real satisfied with that again this time around. Right now, it's all about extending our point lead at every race. If we can do that, I will be very happy."

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Boris Said , Mike Wallace , Ron Fellows