HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Dec. 17, 1998) - Mike Stefanik and Ron Barfield got a head start on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition Thursday, testing at Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex in preparation for the March 20 season-opening Florida Dodge Dealers 400.

The NASCAR Craftsman Trucks will be paired with the CART FedEx Championship Series March 20-21, the season-opener for both series.

Barfield was unofficially clocked at 36.3 seconds (148.760), just off Jack Sprague's track record of 36.173 seconds (149.283). Stefanik's best unofficial lap was 36.7 (147.139 mph).

Stefanik will be a rookie in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition, after sweeping the championships in both the NASCAR Busch North and NASCAR Featherlite Modified division in 1997 and 1998.

"The test is going extremely well," said Stefanik, who will drive Dale Phelon's Carlin Burners & Controls Ford F-150. "We started out with a very loose truck, which is very good because we got a chance to work together. If we showed up with a perfect truck, we wouldn't learn anything. We worked to get the truck driving really nice. This test was really for me to get acclimated to the truck and the changes they can make on the truck." Stefanik's only appearance in the Craftsman Truck Series was in the 1998 finale at Las Vegas, where he finished eighth in the Carlin Burners Ford. "Vegas was really an on-the-job training exhibition, which proved to be alright," Stefanik recalled. "We finished eighth in our first time together, and that was after I spun the truck and went back to 40th, so we came from dead last to have a respectable run for our first time together."

Barfield joins forces with Gloy/Rahal Racing for 1999, piloting the Icehouse Beer Ford.

"This is the first time in my career that my team was ready enough to go testing this early in the year," said Barfield, running in his first of five pre-season tests. "We're looking forward to getting the season started, and testing and racing at Homestead is a great way to start it off."

Barfield finished fourth in the 1996 Florida Dodge Dealers 400, driving Bill Elliott's Super 8 Ford. He finished fourth in the 1998 event, driving the Ortho Lawn and Garden Chevrolet.

"We're already running faster than we qualified for the 1998 race here, and we qualified fourth," Barfield explained. "We're running consistent laps on old tires. We're tickled with the way the test is going."

Barfield's involvement with the team dates back to the 1987 Rolex 24 at Daytona, when Tom Gloy and Elliott co-drove a Roush Mustang to victory in the GTO class.

"Bill and I became good friends and kept in touch," explained Gloy, the 1984 SCCA Trans-Am champion. "A couple years ago I was telling him about the problems we were having with our new truck team, and Bill said, 'You need my driver.' That led to Ron driving for us in Monroe, Washington in 1997, and we went from not qualifying for the previous race to starting sixth, and the only change was the driver. Ron was unable to commit to driving for us last year, but I'm glad we were able to sign him for next season.

"I think we will do well together," Gloy continued. "We communicate well and have a lot of fun together."

Tickets are now on sale for both the Florida Dodge Dealers 400 and the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota, the opening events of the 1999 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. For additional information, call (305) 230-7223, or visit the Speedway's official website at