Off-week news of note 2006-04-17

* Crew chief Lance Hooper has unique connection at Gateway International Raceway *Ted Musgrave victory in Ram Tough 200 would be record-setting affair DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 17, 2006) -- Lance Hooper, crew chief for Kerry Earnhardt (No....

* Crew chief Lance Hooper has unique connection at Gateway International Raceway

*Ted Musgrave victory in Ram Tough 200 would be record-setting affair

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 17, 2006) -- Lance Hooper, crew chief for Kerry Earnhardt (No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet), will possess a unique perspective among those behind pit wall when the green flag is displayed for the April 29 Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway.

Hooper has seen NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition at the 1.25-mile track from two vantage points: As a crew chief and a driver.

The 38-year-old Californian drove in 75 series races -- including three at Gateway with a best finish of 13th -- before assuming a crew chief's role several years ago. Hooper, a NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series and Elite Division, Southwest Series champion, will be making his second appearance backing Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Earnhardt after rejoining ThorSport Racing in mid-March.

The pair fashioned a 20th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway on April 1.

Hooper believes his experience behind the wheel and atop the pit box will go a long way toward landing a top-10 finish in the season's fifth of 25 races.

"It's a night-time race this time (and) I've never raced there at night," said Hooper. "But I have crew-chiefed there at night before so still I feel like I know what the track is going to do."

Gateway comes as close to being a road course as any track on which the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competes with two completely different sets of turns that provide distinctly different challenges -- especially to a crew chief.

"One and two are slow corners, real tight and three is a big sweeping corner with no banking so it's a difficult track to adjust for," said Hooper. "I have a lot of road course experience which was an advantage for me.

"Having been a driver, I'm more in tune with what it takes to get the truck to feel the way it should for Kerry. When he has a concern or question, I can add a unique perspective because I've been in the seat."

Earnhardt, however, isn't a complete stranger to Gateway having competed at the track in the NASCAR Busch Series.

"He's still familiar with the track and knows what to expect," said Hooper.

Making the switch from driver to crew chief hasn't been that big a jump for Hooper, who -- like many who honed their driving skills on NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series tracks -- did much of his own tuning and set-up work in his early competitive years.

And the feelings he experiences now aren't much different from when he strapped into the truck.

"Just like when I competed as a driver, competing as a crew chief is a 'rush' -- the same 'rush,'" he said. "I still get those feelings of nervousness during qualifying. In either case, you're hungry to win and you still depend on each other.

"In both cases, you're still dependent on other members of the team to help you succeed. That's why most drivers and crew chiefs are quick to thank their crews after a good day because it isn't just about driver or crew chief. It takes the whole unit working together to succeed."

NEWS AND NOTES, PART II

ETC. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet) was the top finishing NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver among five who competed in Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. Hornaday placed 17th after starting at the rear of the field in a backup car. ... Rusty Garwood, founder and President of Russell E. Garwood Electrical Contractors, has announced that his company will return as a sponsor of driver Chad Chaffin and the No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet team at Gateway. ... One hundred forty different series competitors have raced for more than $3.5 million in eight previous events at Gateway International Raceway. Dennis Setzer (No. 85 GM FlexFuel E85/Shell ROTELLA T Chevrolet) is the leading money winner with $169,245. ... A victory in the Ram Tough 200 would make Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Team ASE/Germain Toyota) the first driver to win three races at two different NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tracks. Musgrave, the defending Gateway winner, won three consecutive events at California Speedway between 2001 and 2003. ... Veteran motorsports writer John Close is wrapping up his historical overview of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The MBI Publishing book will join nearly 20 volumes licensed by the NASCAR Library Collection and will be released in conjunction with the 2007 season-opening events at Daytona International Speedway. ... Gateway International Raceway will host its annual NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver autograph session for season-ticket holders on April 28 following close of technical inspection.

IN THE LOOP

With four finishes among the top four and starts of 10th or better including a pair of Budweiser Poles, it isn't surprising that Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Ford) tops the series in average running position through the April 1 Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Martin's average running position is 3.300 -- more than four positions higher than Musgrave, the No. 2 competitor in current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings. Setzer, the championship runner-up in each of the past three seasons, has yet to finish higher than ninth but his team's consistency is reflected in his fifth-place ranking in average running position -- 11.184.

Fast Facts

What: Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 (Race 5 of 25).

Where: Gateway International Raceway.

When: 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday, April 29.

Track layout: 1.25-mile paved oval.
Race length: 200 miles/160 laps.

Posted awards: $596,350.

TV: SPEED Channel, 8:15 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2005 winner: Ted Musgrave.
2005 polesitter: Ted Musgrave

Top 10 drivers: 1. Mark Martin 720. 2. Ted Musgrave 665. 3. Todd Bodine 662. 4. David Reutimann 576. 5. David Starr 556. 6. Erik Darnell 552. 7. Jack Sprague 544. 8. Mike Bliss 544. 9. Dennis Setzer 531. 10. Rick Crawford 508.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday -- Practice 9:05 a.m. -- 10:05 a.m.. Rookie Practice 10:30 a.m. -- 11 a.m. Final Practice 11 a.m. to 12 noon. Qualifying 4 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.

-nascar-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Lance Hooper , Chad Chaffin , Mike Bliss , David Reutimann , Erik Darnell , Mark Martin