Pressure's On; Withers, Gullatta Take ARCA Truck Title Fight t Toled o TOLEDO OH (10-11-07) -- Having survived Salem Speedway with nary a scratch, Bill Withers was more than relieved. After missing the big wreck that took out several top...
Pressure's On; Withers, Gullatta Take ARCA Truck Title Fight t Toled o
TOLEDO OH (10-11-07) -- Having survived Salem Speedway with nary a scratch, Bill Withers was more than relieved.
After missing the big wreck that took out several top contenders, the Columbus, Ohio veteran walked off with a solid second place finish and a 65-point lead over Cleveland, Ohio's Nick Gullatta headed to Toledo Speedway for the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series season finale Champion Credit Union 50 this Saturday, October 13th.
But after a month to mull it over, the pressure is again calling out for the 50-year-old driver.
"I've been trying to block it (the pressure) out," said Withers, the inaugural 1999 series champion. "But it keeps coming back. Salem was one of the toughest tracks for me, so it was good to get that one behind us. But, we've not been running all that well at Toledo lately, so I'm definitely feeling the pressure again."
Gullatta also missed the big wreck at Salem. He also won the race and closed the gap on Withers headed to Toledo. However, his race strategy remains the same.
"We won't go into this race any different than we've gone anywhere else this year," said Gullatta. "We've been strong pretty much everywhere this year, or at least since the third race.
"But we've made some significant changes to the truck....changes in geometry to both the front and rear of the truck, which really livened it up. It was too stiff, so we softened it up, front and rear, to get the truck to cut the center of the corner better."
Trailing by 65 markers, Gullatta, who drives for Stan and Judi Rosen, is pulling out all the stops for the big Toledo championship finale.
"We tested at Toledo two weeks ago," added Gullatta. "We unloaded quick and made it even faster as the day went on. We should be very good on long runs and good in qualifying.
"We'll need some help from Bill to pull this thing off (win the championship). Bill's always so smooth and consistent and doesn't make mistakes. He takes what the truck will give him without asking for more."
Withers has always been the model of consistency. Even with only one victory this year at Flat Rock Speedway, he has an average finishing position of 4.3, which has not yet been matched during this 2007 race season.
"My only regret is that we haven't won more," said Withers. "The big picture is obviously the championship. But I'd sure like to go out with a top-five finish to accompany the championship. We know Nick's going to be fast. There are a lot of trucks entered, which could play a factor, so we've got to go out there and be better than conservative.
"I think our biggest strength is in preparation. We've had the truck up on a lift for month looking it over, tightening nuts and bolts. Keeping the truck together is the best thing I'm doing. We've had no failures this year, and sure don't need one now. But we've been very good in the preparation department, and I think that's why we're leading the points."
In a field dominated by General Motors products, Withers is one of the few who operates an all Ford operation to include his #57 Mannings USA-Hall Electronics Ford Ranger to the Bud Wachholz-built Ford V-6 motor.
"I think Duane Bischoff is the only other driver who runs a Ford Truck with a Ford motor," added Withers. "So it would be pretty cool to bring the title back to Ford."
It would also be pretty cool to bring the title back to Withers, who, when the series debuted in 1999, was crowned its first ever champion. Since then, Withers is the only driver in series history who has competed in every single ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series event. He'll make his 112th series start this Saturday at Toledo.
"The first championship was a really big deal for me. We won it much like we're trying to win this one -- on consistency. I don't think we won a race all year that year we won the title. But winning the championship now would mean a lot more to me. I really think it would validate being a champion. Winning it once is neat, but if you can do it again, it proves you're worthy of the title.
"We've been pretty good and real lucky. We have a decent truck, a decent driver and championship luck. Just need one more day like that."
If Gullatta manages to win the maximum points by earning fast time, leading the most laps and winning the race, Withers, to clinch the championship, must finish 8th or better. Canton, Michigan's Paul Hahn, the defending series champion, is currently third in points 90 points out of first.
Practice for the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series Champion Credit Union 50 is scheduled from 11:15 am to 12:15 pm followed by 2BKool Quick Time Qualifying at 2:45. The Champion Credit Union 50 is slated to roll off at 4:40, shortly after pole award qualifying for the ARCA RE/MAX Series.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series will wrap up its 55th consecutive season on Sunday, October 14th with the Hantz Group 200 by Belle Tire LIVE on SPEED at 2:00 pm.