Pikes Peak new pole winner

Houston's Pikes Peak pole 'a shock' By Dave Rodman FOUNTAIN, Colo. (May 20, 2000) Andy Houston won his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Bud Pole Award away from California Speedway on Saturday afternoon when he captured the top ...

Houston's Pikes Peak pole 'a shock'
By Dave Rodman

FOUNTAIN, Colo. (May 20, 2000) Andy Houston won his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Bud Pole Award away from California Speedway on Saturday afternoon when he captured the top starting spot for Sunday's Grainger.com 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Houston's lap of the one-mile oval in 26.978 seconds, an average speed of 133.442 mph in the No. 60 CAT Rental Store Chevrolet, was the best of four drivers who topped Mike Bliss' track record of 27.103 seconds. To say the outcome was a shock was only half the story.

The lap was the first pole by a Chevrolet Silverado this season, after Dodge and Ford equally split the Bud Pole Awards in the first eight races. For the fifth time this season and the third straight race, trucks from each of the three manufacturers qualified in the top-3 spots.

Randy Tolsma was second in the No. 25 CITGO Supergard Motor Oil Dodge, just .073 seconds behind Houston's time with his lap of 27.051 seconds, 133.082. Greg Biffle and a surging Rob Morgan ran the same lap, though 15 trucks apart, of 27.055 seconds, 133.062 mph. Biffle lined his Grainger Ford up ahead of Morgan's Axciom F-150 due to his higher standing in the series owner standings.

B.A. Wilson, who along with Morgan will also make his career best start, will line the Sonntag Redi-Mix Chevrolet up fifth. Rounding out the top-10 are Jack Sprague, Kurt Busch, Bryan Reffner, Dennis Setzer and Rick Carelli.

Houston felt like he was lucky to get the top spot, the third of his career to go with Bud Poles he won at California in 1998 and '99.

"I didn't think it was a pole lap -- it didn't feel real good," Houston said. "I was kinda sliding around and complaining when I got off the race track, but they said it was on the pole and it held up, so I'm happy."

As many of the competitors did, Houston talked of the many changes he had to make on his truck in the course of the open test day on Friday and nearly two hours of practice Saturday.

"I think we were on our 11th set of shocks we'd had on the truck this weekend on that qualifying run," Houston said. "We hadn't been good. We'd been struggling and just changing and changing and changing. The tires for us were tricky -- they gave us a weird sort of feel.

"My truck's been wanting to run sideways ever since we've been here. We changed stuff and got it on a qualifying set-up where it would be a little tighter. Still, the qualifying lap I made, it wasn't real good as far as sticking. I had my hands full."

The teams had to deal with a mixture of sunshine and overcast skies punctuated by intermittent showers that interrupted the schedule on a couple of occasions. Tolsma and Biffle also talked of battling the conditions and indicated it could make Sunday's race, the first at the facility over the 200-mile distance, interesting.

"I drove the truck hard and didn't feel like I gave up much behind the wheel," Tolsma said. "You just had to wait for the front to settle or the rear to settle -- either one -- and we just came up a little bit short."

"It was just too tight leaving (Turn) 4," Biffle said. "I got out of the throttle twice -- I think we had a real good lap but it just got too tight. I thought I was gonna be 10th or so."

Ricky Hendrick will make his NCTS debut from the 11th starting position after qualifying his No. 17 GMAC Chevrolet at 132.115 mph.

Series point leader Mike Wallace, the defending champion of the Grainger.com 200, was one who was badly bitten by the conditions. Wallace had a season's worst 15th-place qualifying effort in the Team ASE Ford after his car loosened up badly in Turn 4 on his qualifying lap.

"The run was OK until it got really loose coming off of Turn 4 and I had to lift," Wallace said of his 131.685 mph lap. "We were quick in practice so I know that it's there -- we just got tight coming out of 4. I'm sure that the truck will race well and we qualified about the same place last year and won the race, so we'll just have to play the numbers again. There had to be someone on the pole and in the first 14 positions -- we just took the 15th."

With only 35 trucks on hand, for the second time this season the field will be short for the main event. Marty Houston had a mechanical problem coming to the green and took the first provisional position on account. Phil Bonifield also took a provisional and Billy Kann and Bobby Hillis were added to the field based on their qualifying speeds.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Marty Houston , Ricky Hendrick , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Bryan Reffner , Randy Tolsma , Rick Carelli , Mike Bliss , Rob Morgan , Phil Bonifield , Bobby Hillis