Andy Houston Redemption at Homestead

HOMESTEAD, FL (Feb. 26, 2000) - Redemption. That's what Andy Houston and the ...

HOMESTEAD, FL (Feb. 26, 2000) - Redemption. That's what Andy Houston and the #60 CAT Rental Stores Chevrolet experienced Saturday winning the Florida Dodge Dealers 400 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The win came just over one week after Houston lost the lead on the final lap at the NCTS season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. Houston wound up third in that event. "Man, I can't even get away from Daytona with a win at Homestead," joked a jubilant Houston when quizzed about the Daytona race by a television reporter in Homestead's Victory Lane. "Sure, Daytona was a disappointment and I've run that race over in my head a couple thousand times this week. No matter how you cut it, third at Daytona was still a great run and to win here at Homestead shows this CAT Rental Stores team is going to be near the front of every race this season. I think we'll be a threat to win every race we go to this year." Houston started third in the 167-lap clash on the Homestead 1.5-mile oval and stayed in the Top-5 throughout the first 40 circuits. That, in itself, was a major accomplishment considering his truck was not handling the way Houston wanted it to. "We weren't real good to begin with, we were just OK," said Houston. "Sometimes I'd hit the line right and we'd go real good through the corners and some times the truck would get sideways and I would be spinning my wheels and backing up. We were loose from the center of the corners off and we decided to make some changes on our first pit stop hoping they would help the truck." Houston got the opportunity to pit on Lap 57 rolling to the aid of his Addington Racing team pit crew. With crew chief Rick Ren calling for four fresh tires and fuel, the team sprung into action as Houston slid to a stop. Halfway through the stop with only the right side tires changed, Houston unexplainably roared off pit road and back into action. "I just messed up," said Houston. "There was a lot going on at the time and I thought we wanted to just take two tires. That was a big mistake on my part, but fortunately it didn't hurt us." Despite the error, the 29-year-old driver was able to battle back to the front of the pack leading the way by Lap 70. Houston knew to stay there, he'd need a caution flag fly so he could come back in for left side tires and additional fuel. That break came shortly after when Dennis Setzer's mount blew an engine coating the racing surface with oil. "That was a big, big break for us," said Houston. "We would have been short on fuel because we didn't get two cans of fuel in during the first pit stop. We were also out of sync on tires, so getting that yellow evened things back up again." After the round of pit stops, Houston was content to ride in the Top-5 for the next 40 laps. Still battling handling woes, Houston's red and yellow #60 Chevy began to come on late in the run advancing to the runner-up spot before pitting for four new tires on Lap 131. "The team made all the right adjustments on my last stop," stated Houston. "They put four tires on it and hit the set-up dead on the handle. Rick said we saved our best tires for last and it was easily the best we handled all day. We were really coming." There was still the matter of catching Jack Sprague and Greg Biffle, the leaders after the pit stop cycle. Houston was up to the task reeling in the front-runners when the caution flag flew again, this time on Lap 139 for debris on the racetrack. The call over the team radio came quickly. "Let's stay out, we're not coming in," said Ren. "We'll fake like we're coming in and see what the others do. I think we've got the truck to win the race whether the others come in for tires or not." Ren's strategy proved to be right on as Sprague, Biffle and polesitter Joe Ruttman headed for pit road while Mike Wallace, last week's winner at Daytona, stayed out with Houston. On the restart, it was no contest as Houston quickly sped away from the field over the final 28 laps to capture his second career NCTS victory. Wallace held on for second followed by Sprague, Ruttman and Biffle. "We came out of the pits and we were half a straightaway back behind Jack and Greg," said Houston. "We had cut off nine-tenths of a second in just a few laps and when we saw that caution come out, I didn't really figure those guys would pit. Rick decided to stay out and get the track position and try and win this thing. I was in full agreement. We had only run nine laps on those tires and it seemed the longer we ran the better off we were. We stayed on the track and those guys pitted. We pretty much ran off and hid after that." Houston crossed the finish line 4.505 seconds ahead of Wallace collecting a tidy $49,809 for the victory in the process. "This is really sweet," Houston stated. "We came down here and tested good. I knew we had a shot at winning, but I really thought if we were going to win anywhere this year, the first one would be a Phoenix in two weeks. I love that place and always run well there. Now we're going to Phoenix with a win in our pocket and a great shot at scoring another. This is a great start to the season for us." Houston, who trails Wallace in the 2000 NCTS points chase by a scant 355-350 margin, will get to chance to change that in the Chevy Trucks 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, March 18. The event will take the green flag at 3 p.m. Eastern time and will be televised live on ESPN.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Jack Sprague , Joe Ruttman