WWS: SWS: Steve Portenga returns to racing roots

Portenga preparing for West/Southwest schedule. BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- For the second time in less than a decade, Steve Portenga is leaving the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) and returning to his roots in the western states. After a ...

Portenga preparing for West/Southwest schedule.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- For the second time in less than a decade, Steve Portenga is leaving the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) and returning to his roots in the western states.

After a 19th-place finish in the 2002 NCTS point standings, Portenga finds himself on the outside looking in as the trucks prepare to begin the 2003 campaign. Portenga faced a similar situation after the 1995 truck campaign.

"I love running the trucks," Portenga said. "We aren't giving up on getting back to that level or above, but if it never happens, I have a lot of memories and a lot of photos to look at from the years we've raced trucks. Racing at Daytona was one of the highlights, something I'll remember forever."

Portenga's departure from the NCTS was necessitated when Roto-Rooter, his primary sponsor, was unable to continue funding the program at its 2002 level. As an owner/driver, Portenga was faced with the business decision of trying to find the best opportunity for himself in 2003.

He feels he's found that with Performance Motorsports, a team headed by Joe Nava that fields cars in the NASCAR Winston West Series.

"We're going to pursue the Winston West full-time," Portenga said. "It will be my first time in Fords, so that's a bit of a change.

"Roto-Rooter is still going to support us. King Taco, which has been with me a long-time, is involved. With them and the team that Joe has built, I think everything's in place to win races and contend for the Winston West championship."

The desire to race at the front of the pack is a strong draw for Portenga.

"I really wanted to make sure I was in a competitive situation in 2003," said the Sparks, Nev. native. "It was great racing the trucks last year, but it was very tough to be in a situation where you knew going into the race that you needed everything to be perfect just to get into the top-10."

Portenga is a veteran of NASCAR Winston West competition. He's won three races and finished among the top-five in the circuit's point standings three times. Portenga is a two-time champion of the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series, owning six career wins on the circuit.

"The Southwest tour is something I want to pursue, also, when the West schedule allows," Portenga said. "Whatever we do, we want to be able to win races and win championships."

Portenga isn't closing the door on the trucks series. He continues to own a fleet of Chevrolets and may compete in some capacity yet in 2003.

"I don't want to say that we're totally done with the trucks," he said. "We still have our trucks and we still have the ability to go truck racing. We've talked with a few people with some different ideas. We may end up being the owner and letting someone else drive the trucks. I'm sure we'll figure those things out in the next few weeks."

Portenga's next race is the NASCAR Winston West opener on Sunday, February 2 at the Phoenix International Raceway. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series opens its 2003 campaign Friday, February 14 at the Daytona International Speedway.

-spr-

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Series NASCAR , NASCAR-TRUCK