Ward To Lead USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship Charge For McFarland, Pete Knight Racing Mooresville, NC (February 7, 2008) - A year ago, Mark McFarland came home third in the final USAR Hooters Pro Cup championship standings. This season, the...
Ward To Lead USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship Charge For McFarland, Pete Knight Racing
Mooresville, NC (February 7, 2008) - A year ago, Mark McFarland came home third in the final USAR Hooters Pro Cup championship standings. This season, the driver of the No. 81 Knight's Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo feels like he's got an even better shot at the Pro Cup title - thanks in large part to the addition of new crew chief Wes Ward.
"I very excited to have Wes join our team this year," said McFarland. "We went through about a two-month process to figure out who we wanted. I've worked with Wes in the past at Jr. Motorsports in the NASCAR Busch Series and I really liked it. Wes is very organized and is great on the radio during the race. He's a great teacher and even though I am a veteran racer, you can always learn something. Wes brings that to our team and a lot more."
Ward, 45, is a career racer who rose out of the ultra-tough Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway stock car ranks to forge a 30-year career in auto racing.
"My story is pretty typical," said Ward (right), who got his start behind the wheel of a 1969 Chevy Camaro at Hickory in 1978. "I won some races, wrecked a lot, and finally, it just got too expensive to do. It was too tough for me and my dad to afford it. The good thing that came out of it was that since we didn't have a lot of money, I learned how to work on cars. I learned a lot about racing."
After 10 years in the driver's seat, Ward's skill with a wrench earned him a spot in the Busch Series working with legendary driver Tommy Houston. Later, Ward spend four years tending to Dale Jarrett's Busch cars before he got his first chance calling the shots from the top of the pit box for Diamond Ridge Racing and driver Jeff Green's Busch Series effort in 1997.
Over the next eight seasons, Ward worked with a number of top teams as crew chief for the likes of Elton Sawyer, Kenny Irwin, Kasey Kahne, Jason Keller and Kenny Wallace just to name a few. Along the way, Ward also got a taste of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
Then, in 2006, the veteran top kick blazed into the Hooters Pro Cup Series guiding the fortunes of Shane Huffman in an entry fielded by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
"I didn't really know a lot about the Pro Cup Series back then and we didn't get much time to learn because by the middle of the season, they moved Shane and I up to the Busch Series," said Ward. "Even though I was there only a short time, I got to know the Hooters Series and some of the people in it. It was very cool. The Hooters deal reminds me a lot of the Busch Series back in the early 1990's. I'm not saying that as a bad thing, but rather just the opposite. I've been doing this a long time and I remember when racing was a lot more fun than it can be at times now. That's a big part of what I am looking forward to this season."
Another one of the things Ward is most looking forward to this season is an old-school, hands-on approach to stock car racing.
"The sport has really changed on the NASCAR level with all the engineers coming in," Ward stated. "That will eventually trickle down to divisions like the Hooters Series, but for right now, Hooters Pro Cup is still very much a racer's series and not an engineer's series. That's something that was very attractive to me in coming to Pete Knight Racing and the Hooters Pro Cup Series."
In the end, Ward's competitive drive, the ability to partner with a proven winner in McFarland, and opportunity to contend for a championship made his decision to move to the Pro Cup ranks this season an easy one.
"Even though I ran the Busch Series for years, I was never able to compete for a championship," said Ward. "This is a situation that is very lucrative for me. It's a great opportunity to contend for a title. It's not a part-time, or partial deal like a lot of the places I've been in the past.
"You know, I've been doing this so long that it really doesn't have anything to do with money or prestige or any of that anymore," Ward concluded. "It's all about quality of life. I want to enjoy myself. I'm not riding out my career here by any means. I still have a long time to go in my career. It's nice and refreshing to be in a place where there's not some sort of politics going on all the time. You still have to win races and contend for championships, but I'm all about having a good time this year. We plan on doing that a lot this year."
McFarland and Ward will open the 2008 USAR Hooters Pro Cup season on Saturday March 15 at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL. TheSears Auto Center 200 will take the green flag at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.