Cook, Power Stroke® Diesel Ford, Finish Seventh In NCTS Standings
LAKE ORION, MI (November 5, 2001) - Terry Cook turned in a career-best, seventh-place finish in the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings, a huge improvement over the previous best 14th Cook accomplished in 2000.
"We had a great season," said Cook, the driver of the No. 29 Power Stroke® Diesel Ford F-150. "We started out the season at K-Automotive with a new driver, no sponsor and a new brand of race truck. Considering all that, I'm not sure any team in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series accomplished more than we did this season."
Included in Cook's season achievements were a Bud Pole Award at Nazareth (PA); second-place finishes at Indianapolis (IN) and Nazareth; five Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes.
The 33 year-old Indianapolis resident proved to be strong out of the box at the 2.5-mile Daytona (FL) International Speedway. Cook turned heads when he topped the leader board three different times before posting a solid sixth-place finish in the Florida Dodge Dealers 250.
Daytona proved to be the springboard for Cook's run of Top-10 finishes. Cook posted a 10th-place effort at Homestead-Miami (FL) Speedway and rolled to seventh at Mesa Marin (Bakersfield, CA) in the next two events. Back-to-back third-place finishes at Martinsville (VA) Speedway and Gateway International Raceway (St. Louis, MO) placed Cook third in the NCTS championship chase after the first five events.
Cook achieved a career milestone - his 100th career NCTS start - at Darlington (SC) Raceway where he added yet another Top-10 finish, a seventh-place effort on the ultra-tough 'Lady in Black.'
"We opened a lot of eyes at Daytona," said Cook. "But, looking back at the first six races, I have to say Gateway was the best because our truck was perfect off the hauler. We started on outside pole and grabbed a Top-3 finish there. We rolled that success into Darlington and it was as memorable because it was my 100th career start in the NCTS Series. There are only a handful of drivers that have achieved that status."
Unfortunately, mechanical gremlins and misfortune derailed Cook in the next couple events beginning with a cut tire at Pikes Peak (CO) International Raceway. Cook still managed an 11th-place finish, the first result outside the Top-10 since joining K-Automotive at California for the final NCTS event of the 2000 season. Dover (DE) Downs International Speedway also produced an 11th-place finish before a fuel mileage miscalculation turned a Top-5 finish in to a 13th-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in early June. To make matters worse, an engine problem at Memphis (TN) Motorsports Park relegated the Sylvania, OH native to a 25th-place finish.
"If we hadn't incurred those problems midway through the season, I feel like we could have been in the hunt for the championship," said Cook. "There's no doubt about it. We just had some freak things happen to use. I don't know how else to put it. When you have a motor failure or don't finish the race in the Top-20, it kills you in the points. It's an uphill battle from there. Those runs really hurt us, they set us back."
Heading into Milwaukee, Cook's articulate nature, work ethic and on-track performance caught the attention of International Truck and Engine Corporation and its Power Stroke Diesel brand. The company, which produces premium quality diesel engines for Ford F-Series, Super Duty and E-Series vehicles, agreed to serve as the primary sponsor for the team for six races. Cook immediately paid dividends for the new partner producing a fifth-place qualifying effort and a fourth-place finish.
"Securing the Power Stroke Diesel sponsorship was easily the highlight of our season," said Cook. "Without their assistance, things would have been pretty tough around here, especially late in the season. Power Stroke Diesel allowed us to race on and compete at a top level all season long."
For Cook, a former diesel mechanic, the association also proved to be a natural fit.
"I know and love diesel engines," said Cook. "If I wasn't racing, I would probably be a diesel mechanic. It's like I have the best of both worlds right now. This partnership has been a perfect fit."
Cook's fortunes took a downward turn at Kansas when he had to pull behind the wall for a carburetor change. The mid-race detour produced a 20th-place finish. Mechanical problems continued at Kentucky Speedway as a piston failure with just a handful of laps to go dropped Cook out of the Top-5 and into ninth place at the finish.
Cook then finally found a stroke of good luck at New Hampshire International Speedway with a strong sixth place finish.
"New Hampshire was a breath of fresh air", said Cook who started 10th in the 200-Lap event. "Kansas and Kentucky were disappointing for the team because we wanted the best race results. It was our first couple of races with Power Stroke Diesel and we hope to put them in the victory column right off the bat. After our finish at New Hampshire, we knew things were beginning to look up."
The Indianapolis resident then scored a near perfect, second-place finish in the Power Stroke Diesel 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park in front of a huge contingent of Power Stroke Diesel employees, friends and family members.
"IRP was the most fun I have had in a race all summer long," said Cook who started fifth. "It was fun because of racing three wide for the lead and second most of the day. Having a truck that could drive underneath people was exciting. If you lose a few spots on a pit stop and have a truck within 10 to 15 laps be back up to second that makes it a thrill a minute."
Back-to-back sixth-place finishes at Nashville (TN) Speedway and Chicago (IL) Speedway followed the top IRP effort. The Chicago race also proved to be profitable as Power Stroke Diesel announced it would continue to support Cook and the K-Automotive team for the rest of the season.
One week later at Nazareth (PA) Speedway, Cook won his third career Bud Pole Award - his first came at Flemington, NJ (8/8/97) and his last at Louisville, KY (8/28/98). Cook then finished a strong second at Nazareth behind race winner and 2000 NCTS champion Greg Biffle.
"Nazareth was bittersweet," said Cook. "It was a situation where we won the pole, led some laps, and were in contention to win the race. Unfortunately, we got into the back of another truck and that knocked a hole in the front end giving us an aerodynamic push. It's kind of a disappointing race for us because we had such a flawless weekend. The only way to top that was with a win."
A hole in the radiator of the No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel Ford halted Cook's efforts on Lap 168 at Richmond (VA) International Raceway resulting in a 31st-place finish. Cook than again rallied, this time for a seventh-place finish at South Boston (VA) Speedway before an engine failure at Texas Motor Speedway produced a 22nd-place effort.
"The motor just blew up at Texas and the Power Stroke Diesel Ford took off right into the wall at Texas," said Cook. "We just had so many freak things happen to us this year."
Cook earned a respectable 13th-place finish at Las Vegas after he started shotgun on the field and then landed his 15th Top-10 of the season at Phoenix soldering a seventh-place effort. He then closed out the season with a sixth-place finish at California, a performance good enough to secure a career-best seventh-place finish in the final championship standings.
"We are a team that has turned a lot of heads given the resources we've had to work with all season long," said Cook. "If the resources are finally put into place where we can run consistently in the Top-5 like we are capable of doing, there's no reason why we will not be a championship contender for 2002 season. Having Ford and Power Stroke Diesel behind us will definitely make us a championship caliber team next season. It's just a matter of us putting all of the pieces to the puzzle together to run consistent and go for it."