Concord, NC -- Circle Bar Racing crew chief Ray Stonkus has been placed on medical leave and will not attend the O'Reilly 200 at the Memphis Motorsports Park and subsequent events in the following weeks. Substituting for Stonkus at the track will...
Concord, NC -- Circle Bar Racing crew chief Ray Stonkus has been placed on medical leave and will not attend the O'Reilly 200 at the Memphis Motorsports Park and subsequent events in the following weeks. Substituting for Stonkus at the track will be veteran NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series crew chief Fred Wanke.
Stonkus has developed a medical condition that has prohibited him from flying resulting in the reduction of events out of driving distance. While Stonkus recuperates, he will remain at the teams headquarters in Concord, North Carolina maintain the current stable of trucks for the series summer stretch. Stonkus will remain as the team's crew chief with Wanke only taking over at-track responsibilities.
"It has come to a point where I am unable to fly," said Stonkus. "Ricky and I talked it over with Mr. Mitchell and he agreed that we needed to bring in someone with experience that can help lead this team in the right direction. I know Fred can do that. I'm still going to continue to be an active part of this team and everyone's focus is still centered on winning Circle Bar Racing and Mr. Mitchell a championship in 2003."
Wanke was a logical choice to assist the team because of his relationship with Stonkus that developed in the mid 70's and early 80's. The two have a tremendous amount of knowledge to draw from which will help Crawford remain a consistent competitor at the track.
"I am not coming in to take over as crew chief," stated Wanke from the teams shop Wednesday afternoon. "Rick and Ray called me and asked me if I was interested in helping them out. I responded by saying I would help this team any way I could, as long as everyone knows that this is still Ray's team and as soon as he is well enough to resume his regular duties he'll return to calling the shots at the track."
Wanke's success in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series speaks for itself capturing victories with three different drivers in four different years. While at Petty Enterprises Wanke won two races with Jimmy Hensley and captured two more once joining Bobby Hamilton Racing and veteran Joe Ruttman. Wanke's most recent victories in the truck series came in 2001 winning seven races after partnering with Winston Cup veteran Ted Musgrave.
"I have to admit I'm excited about being back in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series," explained Wanke. "Circle Bar Racing is an established team that has the opportunity to win week in and week out. This is the kind of position I was looking for because it allows me to join an organization that has a chance to find victory lane immediately. I think Rick and I will work well together and with Ray back in the shop, I think this team is poised to capture a championship."
This weekend's event at the Memphis Motorsports Park will be the first event since Dover of 2000 that Stonkus has missed. Stonkus has led a resurgence of Circle Bar Racing since joining the team collecting 1 win, 2 poles, 25 top-five and 41 top-ten finishes in 56 events.
"Ray has been a very important part of our success here at Circle Bar Racing," said Crawford. "With all of our accomplishments over the past couple of seasons the most important to us is regaining Ray's health. I know we're going to miss Ray at the track, but Fred has proven himself in the truck series and knows Ray's method of doing things. I feel comfortable heading into Memphis and know that Ray is only a phone call away if we have any problems."