INDIANAPOLIS, IN - During the early 1980's there were several big-name rivalries in motorsports. NASCAR had Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip slugging it out weekly for wins and season championships. In Indy cars, Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock...
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - During the early 1980's there were several big-name rivalries in motorsports. NASCAR had Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip slugging it out weekly for wins and season championships. In Indy cars, Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock were the major threats to win 500-mile races and series titles. The NHRA still had Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom The Mongoose" McEwan.
Locally, it didn't get any bigger than Harold Cook and Bob Keselowski. Cook, a native of Sylvania, won his share of races and the 1982 late model division championship at Toledo Speedway. The following year, Keselowski, from Rochester Hills, MI, won several major races and the division championship in his now-legendary "Black Bandit" racer.
While the elder Cook's driving days are long over, he is still active in the sport. He spends his weekends as a technical inspector at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, and follows the careers of his two racing sons. One of his sons, Terry is a multi-time champion at Flat Rock (MI) Speedway, Toledo Speedway, and Sandusky Speedway. Furthermore, he is a veteran of 98 starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). He will make his 100th career start on May 12 at the historic Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
Keselowski has also seen his driving days pass him by. The 1989 Automobile Racing Club of America Super Car Series champion is now a team owner, along with his wife Kay and brother Ron, in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. As with the Cook family, the Keselowski family will soon see its two sons, Brian and Brad, behind the wheel of stock cars on the Ohio-Michigan circuit. Both sons also play an active role with the team, in the shop and on pit road.
The Keselowskis joined the NCTS in 1995, and Cook first entered the series in 1996. While going their separate ways, both families have seen success in the NCTS. Keselowski and Cook each have one career victory as drivers in the Truck Series, and the K-Automotive team has racked up five more wins with Dennis Setzer at the wheel. However, the events of late 2000 found both Cook and Keselowski at a crossroads.
"I guess it was around the two-thirds point of last season we learned we were losing our major sponsor," Bob Keselowski said. "We had some changes within the team, and we were also looking for someone to fill the driver's seat. We talked to just about every driver out there, but after Terry ran with us in Fontana last year, we began to look at him as the driver we wanted for this team."
"We had known Terry pretty much since he was a kid," Kay Keselowski said. "He was always at Toledo with his father when we were racing there, and we have had the opportunity to watch him since 1996 here in the Truck Series. With the background that he has being so similar to ours, it made a lot of sense for us to look at him as a driver when we heard he was looking for a new ride.
"We know that racing at places like Flat Rock and Toledo will teach you how to race" she continued. "You race side by side, you have to know how to work the throttle, and you have to know how to work traffic to be a success at those places. Terry has been successful everywhere he has competed. After thinking about it, it really was an easy decision to make."
Since they teamed up last fall, Cook and the K-Automotive team have found their arrangement to be a rousing success. Five top-ten finishes in the last five races, and fourth position in the current NCTS point standings have put wide smiles on everyone's faces. The last race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia saw Cook finish third, his best series finish since a fourth-place run at Daytona in 2000. A quick tabulation of the points finds K-Automotive ahead of where they were in 1999 after four races, when the team was a contender for the championship entering the final event of the season.
The results are pleasing, but not surprising to anyone involved in the team's effort.
"I am not surprised at all," Cook said. "K-Automotive is one of the top teams in the business. They have a history of running up front from Ron's days in the old USAC stock car division, to Bob winning at Toledo, Mt. Clemens, in the ARCA Series and in the Truck Series.
"It is great to have equipment that allows me to showcase my abilities and to be a challenger to win every week," Cook continued. "This K-Automotive team has tremendous depth and resources. We don't have to cut corners. And the support we have received from the people at Ford has been phenomenal. That is why you have seen the K-Automotive team at the front each week, and why you will continue to see us up front the rest of the year."
"I can't say enough about everyone with K-Automotive," Cook continued. "Everyone takes their job seriously, but not so serious that it isn't still fun. Everyone is always laughing or cutting up about something. But when it comes to race time, everyone puts their game face on and has one goal, and that is to find the way to victory lane. The way our season has started, we all know it is just a matter of time until we reach that goal."
Cook has always been a favorite of the motorsports media. Cook is a favorite guest on several motorsports Web sites, and is looked to as one of the series' most well-spoken representatives. But his recent streak of success has caused many in the motorsports media to sit up and take notice. During the race telecast from Martinsville, veteran broadcaster Dr. Jerry Punch said he believes the Cook-Keselowski combination will threaten for the series championship. Recently, Cook divulged another unique facet of his newfound fame.
"The people at MBNA have a program with NASCAR that they feature certain drivers on special credit cards," Cook said. "They have been nice enough to put me on one of their cards, making me one of the only drivers from the Truck Series with his own card. We are hoping to have it ready by the time we come to Toledo April 27 so the fans will have the opportunity to get one. We just hope they know just because I am on it doesn't mean I will pay the bill though!"
Cook and his #29 Ford race truck will make an appearance at Toledo Speedway on April 27, the season opener at his former home track.
"It is always terrific to come back home and see the familiar faces that supported me way back when," Cook said. "To know all of the successful drivers that have raced at Toledo Speedway, including my father and my team owner, it's a great feeling to be able to continue that record of success."
In addition, Cook will cheer on the next generation of the Keselowski family to take the historic Toledo high banks.
"Brian Keselowski is going to have his car down there, and I am going to be there to offer any kind of moral support or assistance that I can," Cook said. "Between his father and myself, we have a million laps there, so maybe we can help him find the way to the winner's circle."
Cook will be available for autographs at Toledo Speedway's season opener Friday night April 27 from 6:00 to 7:30. Speedway gates open at 4:30, time trials start at 6:15, and the first race is scheduled for 7:30. Tickets for the event are $10 for adults, $5 for children.
-Toledo/Flat Rock Speedways-