Intermittent rain showers forced the cancellation of today's Craftsman Truck Series qualifying session for the Michigan 200, and the field of 36 trucks was set by the NASCAR rulebook. Last week's race winner, Terry Cook, will start Saturday's ...
Intermittent rain showers forced the cancellation of today's Craftsman Truck Series qualifying session for the Michigan 200, and the field of 36 trucks was set by the NASCAR rulebook. Last week's race winner, Terry Cook, will start Saturday's 100-lap race from the fifth position based off of his standing in owner points, while Rick Crawford, the highest Ford driver in the point standings, will start fourth. Both drivers talked about returning to Michigan International Speedway after a one-year hiatus and the added challenges the rain has presented due to the lack of practice.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
YOU TOOK PART IN A MANUFACTURER'S TEST SESSION HERE EARLIER IN THE SEASON. DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD HANDLE ON THE TRACK EVEN THOUGH QUALIFYING WAS CANCELED? "We feel like we have a leg up, but we're kinda caught in the crosshairs because we tested here, but, unfortunately, the truck we tested isn't the one that we have here. Unfortunately, we lost that truck at Texas in the first lap of practice, so we've got a new truck here. It's actually the second race that this truck has run, and it's become our best speedway truck. We raced it at Kentucky and it has a similar setup in it that we tested here with, so you can say we have a leg up because we tested here, but we're still trying to found our balance."
DO YOU THINK IT WAS AN EASY DECISION TO CANCEL QUALIFYING? "When you only have 36 trucks trying to make a 36-truck filed, that was definitely the way to go. Now everybody can forget about qualifying packages and solely focus on race stuff, and that's what we're doing now. We're putting the truck in race trim to make sure that we're good in race mode, and it's just a matter of practice after that."
YOU'VE RACED HERE TWICE BEFORE, BUT HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET AT LEAST ONE PRACTICE SESSION IN FOR THE DRIVERS? "We got a couple of laps in before the first rain shower, but I was still trying to get the truck up to speed. Not having any practice, that would be tough for the teams. This is a handling race track. There are four things that are key here: horsepower, aerodynamics, handling and fuel mileage. If you don't even know what you're fuel window is, it's hard to just calculate it from the pit box without even turning a lap on the track. With all of those things added together, the race winner will have the best combination of those four elements. Fuel mileage will probably be the most critical thing that we will worry about. The second thing we will be trying to figure out is what more can we do in race mode. When we were here testing before, it was just myself and the 50 truck. We ran a couple of laps back-to-back, both in front of and behind, but we were testing some new front-end configurations, so we didn't do a lot of race stuff; it was more qualifying stuff. Again, if you can get the truck driving good by itself, that should relate to race stuff as well."
HOW FORGIVING IS THE RACING SURFACE HERE? "This place is very forgiving. It's just because the groove is so wide. If you're going into the corner of the race track and the thing starts to wiggle getting in, you have a lot of race track to catch it and you have a lot of race track that has grip. There's a big difference between a race track like this and Loudon. Not to rag on Loudon, but it's a very wide track, but the groove is so very narrow. If you get out of that groove, you're up into the fence. At a track like Michigan, the groove is so wide that if you're down on the bottom and the truck starts wiggling and somebody is behind you, you've got plenty of room to chase it up the track. You're in the groove still, so you have plenty of grip to save it. That's the main difference that you see at Michigan, and that's one reason why it makes it so forgiving and promotes a lot of green-flag racing."
HOW MUCH WILL THE DRAFT PLAY IN TOMORROW'S RACE? "This track is as close to a race at Daytona that we will ever have. This is Daytona-style drafting, except we're not in Florida. You can run two-wide around here, or you can run three-wide. The draft here at Michigan, even more so than Fontana, which is the sister track to Michigan, is huge. If you have two trucks that are handling just right, you can literally drive away from the field. I watched Greg Biffle the last time we were here just drive away off into the sunset. On the other hand, if you get one truck that's not handling well and another one pulls behind him, you can actually make the two of you run slower because you're wiggling all over the track. The draft here is just huge. This slingshot is back, and you're going to see some great two-wide and three-wide racing at the stripe just because it's Michigan and it's as close to Daytona-style drafting as you're going to get."
YOU'RE STARTING ON THE INSIDE OF ROW THREE TOMORROW. IF THE RACING IS SIMILAR TO DAYTONA, WHERE WOULD YOU PREFER TO START, THE INSIDE LINE OR THE OUTSIDE? "I don't think it really matters, but if I had the choice, I'd probably want to start on the outside. That way, you can run it hard into the first turn and you can float it into the corner. There's enough grip up there that if you do overdrive it into the corner, you can save the truck."
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150
HOW DOES YOUR GAME PLAN CHANGE WITH THE CANCELLATION OF QUALIFYING? "It could work either way. We're starting fourth now and that's the second row on the outside, which is a pretty good starting spot, but we feel that we have a really good race truck. We started fifth at Kansas with this truck and we went to the front. We started 12th at Kentucky with the same truck and went to the front with it, and we started ninth at Texas and led the race with this same truck. Starting fourth here doesn't bother me; I just wish that we have some practice time to get the truck dialed in."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET AT LEAST ONE PRACTICE SESSION COMPLETED? "I'll tell you what, it's really important here. There are a lot of things on these trucks that have changed in the last six races. We're running a bunch of different springs and you'd think the truck ought to spin out at the flag stand. I guess it's all due to the aero package and it has a lot to do with the tires that Goodyear is bringing. We might not have a handle on it that well yet, but we're getting a grip and that's why practice is important to us; we want to win."
DO YOU FIND THIS RACING SURFACE TO BE ESPECIALLY FORGIVING, AND DO EXPECT JUST A FEW CAUTION PERIODS DURING THE RACE EVEN WITH THE LACK OF PRACTICE TODAY? "You know how us truck drivers are. We like to rub a little bit. The Cup race is 400 miles and the truck race is 200 miles, so it's like a sprint race for us. Sometimes we like to use the other trucks for the brakes and we drive very aggressively and try to put on a great show for the fans. That doesn't necessarily mean that there won't be any cautions for the truck race, but I hope there aren't very many, and fuel mileage can into play."
DID IT MAKE SENSE TO CANCEL QUALIFYING IN LIEU OF PRACTICE SINCE THE TRUCKS HAVEN'T COMPETED HERE SINCE 2000? "I think it's a good idea. There are only 36 trucks here anyway and we need practice more than we need qualifying. We might not get in a Happy Hour today, but I just wish that we could get some practice in."
HOW MUCH DOES THE DRAFT COME INTO PLAY HERE? "When you come here, you'll have a race almost like Daytona to where maybe a truck won't pull away from the field as far, and the ones that are close will be dicing for position because of the draft. You don't feel the draft as much at places like Texas and Kansas like you do here. Here, you've still got banking down the straightaways, especially the front straightaway. It's real wide coming off of Turn 4 and you can use the high line to get a run on somebody and you can actually cut across them on the straightaway to get some momentum going to try to complete the pass. At Texas, if you're behind them off of Turn 4, you won't pass them until you get to Turn 2."