COMPTON THINKS DODGE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE When Dodge announced their 1999 race teams in Las Vegas last November they knew that Stacy Compton and the Impact Motorsports team would be a contender for wins each weekend and for the series ...
COMPTON THINKS DODGE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE When Dodge announced their 1999 race teams in Las Vegas last November they knew that Stacy Compton and the Impact Motorsports team would be a contender for wins each weekend and for the series championship. But to have the type of success they've found in the first six races of the season is remarkable to Compton, who finds himself atop the points standings. Compton has earned six top-four finishes in the first six races. What does Compton think has made the difference that has put him in the lead? The answer: the Dodge Ram.
"I think this year the help that we've received from Dodge has made the difference. We tested more over the winter with Dodge than we had in the last two years with the Ford," said Compton. "The wind tunnel time has been incredibly beneficial and without that, we would have been out in left field on several occasions. For example, we left Homestead and went straight to the wind tunnel and verified what we had seen on the track. I think the biggest difference we have seen has been the research and development along with the factory support we have received from Dodge.
"The Joey Arrington motors are really stout and we have as much horsepower with these motors as anyone on the track. Some of the motors I've had in past years have either been strong on the bottom-end or on the top-end, but Joey's motors seem to be strong everywhere," said Compton. "This has really helped when the truck might have been struggling on set-up - the horsepower allowed me to stay in front of someone until we can get a caution to come in and adjust the truck."
Compton has earned one pole position along with his six top-four finishes. Does Compton think he can keep up this pace for the rest of the season?
"Hopefully we can continue just the way we are. In Memphis we started the race with about a 20th place truck, but the crew gave me some great pit stops and Kevin (Cram) made some great calls and that moved us to the front," Compton said. "We've taken for granted that we have six top-fours, and that's pretty tough to do, but to do that week in and week out is a pretty tall order. Hopefully Joey's horsepower, paired with the slick Ram bodies, will help us continue to stay up front at upcoming road course races. We want to see this RC Dodge up front for the rest of the year."
"We knew that Stacy was going to be a contender, but to be leading the points this early in the season is almost more than we expected and we are elated," said Bob Wildberger, Senior Manager NASCAR Truck, DaimlerChrysler. "The Dodge teams have proven to be competitive at every race track, which proves how far the Dodge Motorsports program has come in just a short time."
MEMPHIS 200 RECAP It wasn't pretty - or particularly memorable - but all that mattered at the end of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park last weekend was that four Dodge Ram drivers worked their way into the top 10 after starting in the middle of the field.
Stacy Compton, driver of the #25 Supergard Dodge, continued his hot streak - with another finish in the top four - by adding five NCTS points to his lead. Compton has finished in the top four at all six NCTS events this year.
"(Crew chief) Kevin Cram and this team kept digging today, and Joey Arrington horsepower kept us coming through the pack," said Compton, who started 12th. "The guys kept adjusting the truck during the race and we just moved up and gained track position. Overall, it was a good day. We posted another top-four finish and maintained the points lead. We're happy with that and we'll head to Pike's Peak."
Despite not being happy with his race set-up, Dennis Setzer, driver of the #1 Mopar Dodge, started 15th, finished just behind Compton and moved up to seventh in series points. "I just didn't have the truck set up the way I needed it all day," he said. "We kept having to come from behind and these Mopar guys did a great job in the pits. We missed a little something today but we'll be better when we come back."
Other Dodge Ram finishes include: Randy Tolsma finished eighth in Memphis and is 10th in series points; Butch Miller had his best showing of the season, finishing 10th in Memphis; and Jimmy Hensley fell out of contention with engine trouble and finished 30th.
THE CHALLENGES OF THIN AIR Most of the 25 races on the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule are raced at or near sea level, but there is one exception - Pike's Peak International Raceway in Colorado Springs, Colo. This facility sits at nearly 4,000 feet, with its namesake mountain towering in the background. What kind of an effect does 4,000 feet have on a NASCAR race truck and more specifically on a Dodge Ram race truck and the Dodge Ram driver?
"Horsepower is how much air and fuel get into the cylinder and there is less air at altitude which means less horsepower," said Ted Flack, Engine Program Manager for Dodge Motorsports. "We compensate by using a smaller jet in the carburetor to get the correct air to fuel ratio, with the optimum being 14:1. There is really no way to ever get all of the horsepower back that you lose to the altitude, but this is the best way we have found so far."
The engine is the largest issue affected by the change in altitude, but there is another area that needs attention, says Kevin Cram, crew chief for the #86 RC Dodge. "The transmission and the rear end on the truck can get hot in the higher altitude due to the lack of air," said Cram. "We have to make sure that all of the cooling systems in the truck are functioning properly prior to the race. Even the hauler drivers notice that the trucks begin to run hotter when they go up in altitude."
The lack of air at the 4,000-foot level will obviously affect the race trucks, so one must wonder how the drivers will deal with less air to take into their bodies during the 200-lap race.
"Last year I had to take a lot of fluid because I had the flu when we arrived at Pike's Peak," said Jimmy Hensley, driver of the #43 Dodge By Petty. "I could feel the difference in my breathing due to the lack of air, but I don't think that it will be a problem during this year's race."
"I don't think that there will be a big difference in the conditions for the drivers," said Dennis Setzer, driver of the # 1 Mopar Dodge. "Because the temperatures will be lower there in the spring than they were in the summer when we raced last year, I think that will make the biggest difference of all."
RAM REVIEW ... following the Tempus Resorts 300K at Pike's Peak International Raceway, July 25, 1998
The Tempus Resorts 300K was the 13th race of the 1998 season, and the number 13 was anything but unlucky for the drivers now in the Dodge Ram stable, as all were able to better their qualifying positions.
Jimmy Hensley had the best day of the group, finishing fifth after starting 21st. Stacy Compton finished seventh after starting 10th; Dennis Setzer finished eighth after starting 11th and Randy Tolsma finished ninth after starting 12th. Butch Miller finished 16th after starting 28th.
RAMMIN' AHEAD... 5/16 NAPA 300K Pike's Peak International Raceway (1.0-mile track) Colorado Springs, Colo. TV: May 16 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN
DODGE RAM FAST STATS After Memphis, the sixth of 25 NCTS events
Stacy Compton, #86 RC Dodge 1 pole, 0 wins, 6 top-five finishes, 6 top-ten finishes Started 12th in Memphis, finished 4th $100,820 total winnings First in NCTS championship points
Dennis Setzer, #1 Mopar Dodge Ram 0 wins, 2 top-five finishes, 4 top-ten finishes Started 15th in Memphis, finished fifth $52,110 total winnings Seventh in championship points
Butch Miller, #18 Dana Dodge 0 wins, 0 top-five finishes, 3 top-ten finishes Started 14th in Memphis, finished 10th $46,825 total winnings 17th in championship points
Randy Tolsma, #25 Supergard Dodge 1 pole, 0 wins, 0 top-five finishes, 2 top-ten finishes Started 13th in Memphis, finished eighth $49,760 total winnings 10th in championship points
Jimmy Hensley, #43 Dodge by Petty 1 win, 2 top-five finishes, 3 top-ten finishes Started 16th in Memphis, finished 30th $74,460 total winnings 16th in championship points
NEWS & NOTES... While many NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers spent the recent two-week "spring break" before Memphis crossing items off their wives' honey-do list ("honey, do this, honey do that"), the Dodge Ram drivers were crossing items off of another list - the "do this, don't do that" list provided by road racing instructors at the Skip Barber Driving School in Sebring, Fla.
Dodge Ram drivers Dennis Setzer, Butch Miller, Randy Tolsma, Jimmy Hensley and Stacy Compton ran through the paces at Sebring International Raceway in open-wheel race vehicles in wet and dry conditions. And even though the NCTS doesn't race in Sebring, the drivers learned a lot about what racing would be like under rain conditions.
"The Skip Barber School was very similar to one that I attended in Sonoma, Calif., a while back," said Stacy Compton, current points leader and driver of the RC Dodge.
"The real difference came on the second day when we were able to run in the rain. Racing in the rain is something that we've never had to do, but I'll be better prepared if it comes to that. The lines the instructors showed us were nowhere near what I probably would have run in the situation, and I feel that I benefited from the experience."
Under current NASCAR rules, if rain begins to fall during a road-course event, teams will switch to Goodyear rain tires. Three NCTS road courses are on the schedule: Portland, Ore., Watkins Glen, N.Y. and Topeka, Kan.