This Week in Ford Racing January 11, 2000
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Late last year NASCAR Craftsman Truck teams tested at Daytona and Talladega under the auspices of the sanctioning body to determine the configuration for the trucks for the first NCTS race on Daytona's high banks in February. Max Jones, Roush Racing team manager, discusses those tests and what his team with drivers Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch learned in preparation for this week's final open truck test on Friday and Saturday at Daytona. Jones also talked about the team's rookie of the year candidate Kurt Busch who has replaced Mike Bliss.
"The (first) Daytona test was September 13 and 14. When we went there I thought it went really well. We were going faster than NASCAR wanted us to go so we tried some things, a bigger spoiler, wider front end and things like that that slowed them down quite a bit. We did that on our own to show them and showed that to NASCAR, and they liked that. Then the Monday after the California race we stayed back and did some things. We took the air cleaner snorkels off, and we widened it and we show them how the rear wickers would slow it down and the eight inch spoiler and those kind of things, and the trucks slowed down quite a bit. Then we went back to Daytona in December, and I don't remember the lap times or speeds but I think it was in the 180 mile an hour range and I think they were pretty happy with that. Our trucks weren't as fast as some of the other Fords. We're not positively sure why that is, but we thought the trucks were really good and they were easy to drive for Greg and Kurt. It was Kurt's first test with Roush as an employee and we thought he did a really good job.
"The second day we had kind of a mock race with the six guys that had been there in September. Not a mock race, but we all ran together in a draft, and it was really fast. Everybody was in the draft, and the draft was a big deal. It was like an IROC race. We ran really hard for probably 20 minutes. You know you would be coming out of two leading and before you got halfway down the back stretch you would be the sixth guy. It was that big of a shuffle all the time. You could be back in the lead by the start-finish. The draft is a big deal. I think it will be an exciting race.
"I'm not sure what all NASCAR is wanting to do. I wouldn't be surprised if they put restrictor plates on us at the last minute. I hope they don't at the last minute. But I think all the trucks were really comfortable and pretty close to the same speed."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR OUT OF THE TEST THIS WEEK? "We're just looking for more speed. Actually they've slowed us down, and we are running with those changes, but there were guys faster than us. And I think we are still looking at getting the drivers acclimated, and just to get the trucks as comfortable as we can. Except in this little 20-minute mock run we didn't run around anybody, and I think some guys need the practice running around people. The trucks act a little different when they are in a group than when they are out there by themselves. It will give the guys a chance to kind of get used to what it will be like in the race.
"I think we could go there and race right now to be honest with you, but you can never test too much."
WHAT DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT AERODYNAMICS WHEN YOU WERE AT DAYTONA? CAN YOU MAKE A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TRUCKS AND THE CARS ON THAT TRACK? "I don't know about the cars because I haven't driven Winston Cup cars at that track, but for the trucks the draft is huge because they knock such a big hole in air. If somebody is up ahead of you, he is affecting you. By that I mean if you are coming out of turn two and the other truck is going into turn three he's giving you a tow. That's how big the wash is behind them. So when we were testing we were trying to be in clean air but it was very difficult. Halfway around the track it was affecting your times and the drivers could feel it so the draft is a really big deal because they are so big."
HOW MANY TEAMS WERE AT THE DECEMBER TEST? "I think maybe 25."
HOW MANY DO YOU EXPECT FOR THIS TEST? "I wondered about that and asked NASCAR. They said they expected maybe as many as 40 or 50 trucks for the race down there, and would maybe have to turn some guys away. They said they thought some Cup guys would be bringing trucks, and some of the teams will be running more than one. I don't know if that was optimistic on their part. They don't have the entry forms out yet so they won't know until they get them back."
YOU HAVE SAID YOU THINK THE TRUCKS NEED TO BE AT DAYTONA. WHAT DO YOU THINK BEING AT DAYTONA WILL DO FOR THE SERIES? "I think it will do a lot for it. It's the capital of NASCAR racing, and there's going to be a lot of people there for speed weeks that normally wouldn't see the trucks run. I think it will help the fan base. I think we are going to put on a good show. It will be good racing. It will grow the truck series even more. In this little mock thing we did the guys were going three abreast around the banking. They were within inches of each other, and every position changed every hundred yards. It was pretty exciting. Friday there will be a good-sized crowd there, and it will put us on the map. A lot of the media will see the trucks for the first time, and trucks racing at Daytona will be a first so there will be a lot of play on that. The manufacturers will be there, the media, the Cup teams, the sponsors, everybody. You have a lot of people who will be there looking at Winston Cup sponsorship, and they will see the trucks."
HOW ARE THINGS GOING WITH KURT? "They are going really good. He's fit right in with the team. Right now at Roush with the truck teams the chemistry is the best it's ever been. Everybody is real upbeat, and we're all looking forward to going racing. I mean the year we had last year with nine wins with Greg and one with Bliss, ten out of the shop, but the year didn't end up the way everybody had hoped. But they've come back from the holidays and vacation real upbeat. Kurt was working really well with the guys at the Daytona test. He was giving good feedback to the guys. He's real calm and precise. He's real focused when he is around the guys. He's moved back here, and he's at the shop. And I think he's fun to be around.
"I think we've got a good shot with two guys that can be right up front and top contenders. They seem to be getting along real well, more so than some of our drivers in the past so I'm excited about that. And maybe we can win as many races as last year if not more. There's not reason to think that we can't. Obviously the series is getting more and more competitive all the time, but I don't see why we can't. We've got the same crew guys. Greg is coming back. Nothing has been shook up. They are not down in the mouth about not winning the championship so I don't see why we can't start off right where we left off, and continue to win races."