This Week in Ford Racing May 13, 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, participated in the open test session last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway in preparation for Friday's Hardee's 200, the inaugural...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 13, 2003
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, participated in the open test session last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway in preparation for Friday's Hardee's 200, the inaugural Craftsman Truck Series event at the 1.5-mile speedway. Cook shared his thoughts on the race track, the direction of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the appointment of Rick Ren as his crew chief while team owner Bob Keselowski convalesces back in Michigan.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford F-150:
YOU COMPLETED A TWO-DAY TEST LAST WEEK AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY. WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE RACE TRACK? "I was at Lowe's Motor Speedway once before the test last week. I ran a test there with K-Automotive back in 2000 and we spent about four hours on the track all by ourselves. This time it was a different experience. The bumps in turns three and four seemed to be more noticeable this time around. You can go flat out in turns one and two, but you have to lift in three and four. You really have to set the truck up for turns three and four. Generally, you tend to set the truck up for the corner that leads to the longest straightaway and at Lowe's that's the frontstretch. You have to give up a little bit in one and two to make gains on three and four. Your shock package there is almost everything. You can change springs and bars all day long, but until you get on the right shock package to marry with those springs and bars, you're not going to be fast there. We found that out early. We just basically spent the last half of the last day there working on shock packages and I still don't think we have it right. We're going to go back with some different stuff to try to get it better. The single key that I can see so far at Charlotte is just getting through three and four, and the key there is just getting over the bumps."
SINCE THIS IS A NEW VENUE FOR THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES, DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE A LOT OF CAUTION FLAGS IN THE RACE? "I don't think we'll see a lot of cautions. I expect it to be a lot of long green-flag runs. I think that even though that you have guys that don't have experience racing there, from what I saw at testing, nobody did anything crazy. We were there for two days and we didn't have anybody really get into the wall. Basically, anybody who spun, spun trying to get on pit road. Even though the track is pretty tricky to get around, everybody was pretty safe. What I expect to see in the race is a quick separation in the field because you have the 'haves' and the 'have nots.' You've got guys like Ted Musgrave, Bobby Hamilton and Kevin Harvick. You have a ton of guys that have a lot of experience there. The guys that have the experience are definitely going to have an advantage over the guys who don't. In order to make up for that we have to prepare and have a better race vehicle to overcome the experience factor and we have an experienced crew chief (Rick Ren) and that helps our situation. With that said, you have to race the race track. I look at it like another Darlington. You have to race the race track for the first three-quarters of the race and the last quarter of the race you just race your competition. You need to position yourself where you stay on the lead lap and stay in contention. As long as you see the leaders the whole race long that is what you need to do until the last 30 laps when you need to go racing."
YOU HAVE A NEW CREW CHIEF THIS WEEK WITH RICK REN CALLING THE SHOTS WHILE OWNER BOB KESELOWSKI RECOVERS FROM HIS RECENT HEALTH PROBLEMS. HOW IS THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND RICK PROGRESSING? "Rick hasn't worked with the Ford F-150 before, he hasn't work with me and he hasn't worked with K-Automotive before. We're trying to make the best out of a bad situation and bringing Rick Ren on board is a big part of that. To say that there's not going to be a learning curve, we'd be fooling everybody involved. There's going to be a learning curve. Rick is still trying to figure out the aero package of the Ford. He's still trying to figure out that if he does something to the body of the Ford is it going react the same way it would with a Chevrolet? He's trying to learn that and he's trying to learn me and I'm trying to learn him and it's the middle of the season. You throw all of that into the mix and it's a lot to overcome. We were very fortunate that we had two tests before we even went to a race and that helps us a bunch. After we race at Charlotte we're going to have another test before we go to Dover, so we'll have three tests mixed in with one race before get into the summer months. That's helping us a bunch to get the communication down. There is still going to be a learning curve, I don't know how long that will be. Hopefully, it will be just one race and we'll be in victory lane in Charlotte. I think and expect that we can win, but to say that there won't be a learning process would be an underestimation."
THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES HAS EVOLVED INTO A COMPANION SERIES WHERE IT ONCE WAS USED TO BREAK INTO NEW MARKETS. ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE DIRECTION THE SERIES IS TAKING? "It's definitely evolved into a major national touring series. The series has evolved because NASCAR is very good at giving the fans what they want. We are in the entertainment business. And that goes for the Busch Series, Winston Cup or any form of motorsports. NASCAR has biggest fan following in the U.S. NASCAR is the innovator and keeps giving the fans what they want for the entertainment business. Fans like to see live pit stops, and who wins the race out of the pits. I don't think the fans liked the halftime breaks we used to have in the series. We went from halftime breaks to live pit stops. We went from being able to change just two tires under caution to changing four tires. We went from racing at really small tracks where you couldn't get a large crowd to having 100,000-seat venues. One of the things that this series has done to bring more entertainment value to the fans, we pair ourselves up a lot more with the Winston Cup Series and that gives fans a chance to see a lot more racing over the course of a weekend. Typically, fans would only see a Winston Cup qualifying on Friday, and now they sometimes get to see qualifying on Friday, a truck race at night. Being in the entertainment business you always have to bring more to the fans that are out there. We cut out the old Colorado Speedway, Louisville and I-70, and everybody kinda said we moved away from our roots, but that's why we have the national late model touring series. That's why you have the southwest tour and the all pro series. Those are the regional racing series at the short tracks. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has evolved into what it has become because we are giving the fans what they demand."
THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES IS UNIQUE WITH THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH, ELIMINATING THE CHANCE THAT A RACE COULD END UNDER CAUTION. DO YOU THINK THAT SHOULD BE A RULE MORE SERIES USE? "Why wouldn't you? I think there should be a green-white-checkered finish no matter where we race. The bottom line is that we are in the entertainment business. The fans come to see a race and the race ends when a driver races underneath the checkered flag for the victory, not two cars receiving the caution and the checkered at the same time. Yes, I understand that five laps previous the race was to the caution flag, but the fans don't see that. Most of the fans that are new to the sport see the caution and reach down and grab their beer and miss the finish. They didn't realize that was the finish to the race. They just missed the finish of the race. The Indianapolis 500 last year is a great example. The controversy of the entire summer was who won the Indianapolis 500. If that race ended under checkered flag conditions there would be no controversy. I understand if a race ends under yellow because of weather, but that should be the only way a race ends under caution. I don't care what form of motorsports it is, the fans come to see the race and the race is driving underneath the checkered flag for the race win, not under the caution flag. I'm a firm advocate of it. I won one at Milwaukee last year because of that. I made the pass under the green-white-checkered, but I've also been on the other side of the fence. It flipped around on me at New Hampshire. I was leading on a green-white-checkered finish and fortunately I was able to keep the lead. I was getting nervous at that point and I was wondering why do we have this rule? It turned out great and the fans got to see a race. That's the way it should be."
WITH THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES BEING A COMPANION EVENT TO NOT ONLY WINSTON CUP AND BUSCH, BUT ALSO THE IRL, IS THERE ONE FORMULA THAT WORKS BEST FOR PROMOTING THE SERIES? "This is not to slight the IRL at all. They have a great program, they're doing a great job. When we go to Kansas, it's a sellout when we race with them, but that's because of the way that they sell their seats. In order to purchase a NASCAR Winston Cup ticket you have to buy into the package. In essence, we're getting a packed house because NASCAR Winston Cup cars race at Kansas Speedway. There's nothing wrong with that. The bottom line is that for us to really do our best we need to race with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, which is the single-biggest form of motorsports going. To be paired up with the Winston Cup Series is the best thing for us right now. That is what made the Busch Series. The Busch Series is a big series and a big deal because most of their races are companion weekends with Winston Cup. When you have that you're going to get a big fan draw."