Myrtle Beach, SC- Every driver looks for the next rung on the ladder, but 2004 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Carter will start his season on top of it, joining forces with Ricky Benton Racing.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity. I'm looking forward to the season," said Carter, son of legendary car owner Travis Carter. "In my opinion, [RBR] has the best team in the Hooters ProCup Series. They win races, and they've won a championship." Carter has done both as well, albeit at a different level.
"Hickory Motor Speedway is one of the tougher short tracks around," said RBR team manager Rick Benton. "We've looked at Matt for a couple of years, but he showed he could handle himself last year."
Carter found the handle in a variety of rides during 2003. In addition to competing in a full schedule at HMS, Carter made two starts in the Hooters ProCup Series and the UARA Series during 2003. Carter also finished 17th at Martinsville Speedway in a Craftsman Truck Series event last year.
"We really like his competitiveness, but he also knows how to finish races," said Benton. "He has some experience on the radials, and that should help. Realistically, we feel like we can win a few races and win the [Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award]. We're not overlooking the championship, but the Rookie of the Year is a big award."
The Miller Lite Rookie of the Year program is worth $75,000 this season. Carter agrees with Benton's goal for the rookie campaign.
"If we don't win races and finish in the top 10 each week, I'll be disappointed," said Carter. "I don't know who else is running for [Miller Lite Rookie of the Year], but I think we have a shot at it. Who knows, the way the Championship Series is set up, we could have a shot at the [overall] title."
Carter, a native of Denver, N.C., will debut his RBR ride at USA International Speedway on Feb. 28, 2004 in the season opener. Although Carter will carry a yellow stripe on his bumper in 2004, he has made some quality runs in a ProCup chassis-and at USA Int'l.
Carter posted a ninth-place finish at the Lakeland, Fla., track in 2003 and has competed in four races in the Hooters ProCup Series over the last two years.
Mike Hester will help with Carter's learning curve, returning as crew chief for the No. 22 Black's Tire Service car in 2004. Hester was the crew chief for Jason Sarvis during 2002, guiding the Myrtle Beach driver to the Hooters ProCup Championship.
Ronnie Griffin, who split time between Steven Christian and Jason Sarvis in 2003, will be the car chief for Carter. As for a teammate, Carter may have to go it alone.
"We'll have to wait and see about the No. 2 car," said Benton. "We had a lot of calls about it, but we're not sure what we'll be doing with it. We'll run it some races, but I don't know if we'll run a full season."
Both Steven Christian and Jason Sarvis finished in the top 10 in points at the end of 2003 driving for RBR.