Third #77 JASPER team member goes for driving title at Atlanta.
BILL "STUMP" LEWIS--driver of the #77 Jasper Ford transporter--will compete for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship for transporter drivers this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the International Truck Challenge; in the most recent round of competition at Chicagoland Speedway, Lewis beat two dozen other competitors--including last year's champion Barry Sheppherd (#21)--to take a 10-point margin into this weekend's final round; Lewis outdistanced the field in Chicago by 44 seconds in the competition, in which drivers challenge each other and the clock in a timed obstacle course that includes a slalom course, a simulated loading dock maneuver and a series of pinpoint turns; cumulative time will also factor into the title chase, with Lewis' overall time (393.427 secs.) trailing the overall times of two of his challengers--Kelly Stewart-#28 (340.898 secs.) and Rodney Pickler-#2 (341.486 secs.); overall time is the determining factor for the championship should two drivers tie in points.
----LEWIS on championship chance at Atlanta, significance of competition for NASCAR Winston Cup transporter drivers--."Obviously, it would be a huge honor to beat the rest of the guys involved in the International competition. There's several ways to look at it. They created a format for all of us to be able to showcase our abilities in these big trucks, and then made changes since last year to improve on the way it's all determined. They've done a great job with that.
"But the other part of it is that all the transporter drivers are out here together as a group every week, going down the road about 70,000 miles a year to get the cars to the track every week, and we all look out for each other and are pretty close. There's some serious bragging rights involved as well, just between us.
"I just don't think the average fan thinks about what would happen--especially at this time of the season with the points race as close as it is--if one of these trucks didn't get to the track on time, or had an unforseen problem and couldn't get there at all. There's been a need for a long time for some way to give the truck drivers a little more recognition for their role in the Winston Cup garage and this International Truck event has done that."
#77 Jasper team member JEFF FULTZ won the NASCAR All-Pro Series championship last weekend at Memphis, leading all 125 laps in the rain-delayed race; FULTZ entered the race in second place five points behind David Reutimann, but the leader suffered engine failure on Lap 44, guaranteeing FULTZ's first All-Pro title; prior to his dominating Memphis win, FULTZ had won twice in All-Pro competition in 2002 (Nashville, Myrtle Beach) as well as the ARCA race in May at Charlotte; a Cincinnati, OH. native, FULTZ--a full-time fabricator in the Jasper shop--brought 179 overall career wins and seven series championships into the 2002 season; FULTZ will be honored at the NASCAR All-Pro Banquet on Saturday at the Atlanta Airport Hilton.
FULTZ becomes the second 2002 series champion with connections to the Jasper Motorsports Team; BORIS SAID, who runs a limited WC schedule in the #67 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford, won the 2002 Trans-Am Series championship two weeks ago at Road Atlanta and races in the season-finale this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, where joined WC testing earlier this year with DAVE BLANEY; with his race-win (his seventh in 11 starts) at Road Atlanta. SAID joined the late Mark Donohue and Tommy Kendall as the only Trans-Am drivers to win at least seven races in a single-season.
--CO-OWNER & TEAM MANAGER MARK HARRAH on Fultz's NASCAR All-Pro title--."Jeff's a hard worker for the #77 Jasper team every day in the shop, but I also believe in his talent as a driver, and we couldn't be any prouder that he won the All-Pro championship, especially with such a dominating performance. I want to help him all I can in his ultimate career goal--and that is to race at the highest level he can. All of us at the #77 shop want to see him achieve his dream.
"We do have some R & D things on the cars he races in ARCA and the Busch Series--which are built in our shop and are identical to the one's Dave (Blaney) drives--that could help us down the road with the Winston Cup team. That's just a small benefit of his dual role as driver and hands-on crew member.
"But the real focus is Jeff. It's pretty phenomenal that guys like Jeff work 40-50 hour weeks in the shop, then chase bigger dreams on weekends. And the WC success stories of guys like Ernie Irvan and Mike Skinner--both of whom worked in race shops as crew members when they first came to NC--show that those bigger dreams can come true. I hope this championship will bring Jeff a shot at an even better opportunity."
* DAVE BLANEY and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team enter the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway ranked 19th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series owner standings, 100 points behind the #30 Richard Childress Racing Team (Jeff Green); in the March race in Atlanta, BLANEY started 24th (29.273 secs.) and finished 17th, his best finish in six career WC starts at the track; the #77 Jasper team won the only pole-position in ten years of NASCAR WC sponsorship in the fall, 1994 race--Greg Sacks with a then-track record 29.485 secs. ,continuing a streak of four straight top-ten starts for the team in 1993-94 by Ted Musgrave and Sacks; Sacks earned the best finish for Team Jasper (in 16 starts) of seventh in the spring, 1994 race at AMS.
* BLANEY's start at Atlanta in March was the first time he had qualified out of the top-ten at AMS in his WC career, including a career-best third last fall (29.195 secs.) and other starts of fourth, seventh (twice) and ninth; in the March 2001 race, BLANEY has perhaps his best chance for a WC win disappear when--after leading 70 of the first 217 laps--had a wheel come off after lug-nuts were left loose on a pit-stop; he finished 34th; BLANEY also had a NASCAR career-best second-place finish in the Busch Series race at AMS in March, 1999, when winner Mike Skinner was disqualified in post-race inspection, then reinstated as the winner after a board review four days later.
* BLANEY's season-best qualifying effort is third (Richmond 2), matching his WC career-best at Atlanta (11/01); his ninth-place finish at Richmond in September matched his season-best at California; his career-best WC finish is sixth (Texas, Michigan 2, Miami-- 2001); he finished 20th last weekend at Martinsville, leading 18 laps early in the event and running mid-pack and on the lead-lap throughout the race before going a lap-down to race-winner Kurt Busch with eight miles remaining in the event.
* After 32 races in the 2002 Winston Cup season, BLANEY RANKS SECOND IN LAPS-COMPLETED (9,373 of 9,475--98.5%), behind only Rusty Wallace (98.9%), another Penske-Jasper Engines entry; BLANEY ALSO RANKS SECOND IN MILES-COMPLETED (12,401.155 of 12,567.707--98.67%), trailing only Jimmie Johnson (98.98%--.by 38.2 miles); Wallace ranks fourth in miles-completed behind Johnson, BLANEY and Mark Martin.
* Rusty Wallace leads the three Penske-Jasper Engines entries in the 2002 Winston Cup driver standings in fourth-place (4,089 points--6 top-fives, 16 top-tens), 174 points behind leader Tony Stewart; Ryan Newman (4,086 points) ranks fifth, 177 points out of first, and leads all WC drivers with 14 top-five (tied with Stewart) and 20 top-ten (tied with J. Johnson) finishes; BLANEY and the #77 Jasper team rank 19th in the WC owners points (3,267 points); BLANEY ranked 23rd entering the 33rd race of the 2001 season (at Rockingham) in the #93 BDR Dodge.