Daytona: Andy Houston preview

MOORESVILLE, NC- (February 6, 2004) -Make no mistake about it, Andy Houston loves Daytona International Speedway. Full of folklore and rich tradition, the 2.5-mile super-speedway has provided NASCAR fans with some of the sport's most historic ...

MOORESVILLE, NC- (February 6, 2004) -Make no mistake about it, Andy Houston loves Daytona International Speedway. Full of folklore and rich tradition, the 2.5-mile super-speedway has provided NASCAR fans with some of the sport's most historic moments and Houston with some of his most encouraging runs.

"I have always liked Daytona," Houston said. "It's big and fast, and you need horsepower but you need a good handling truck as well. The first year that NASCAR held the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona I was in a tight battle with Mike Wallace at the white flag. I got a great run off of turn two and looked back in my mirror and thought - hey I might just win this thing. As we went down the backstretch Mike's No. 2 Team ASE truck just got bigger and bigger. He was locked into a draft with Kurt Busch and both of them just nipped me at the line but it was a great run. Even in the Cup car I have run really good there. I had some bad luck in the Daytona 500, but I ran fourth in my very first Twin 125 Qualifying race and I think I was able to open some eyes that day. We had a real strong car in the Daytona 500 but got caught up in a wreck late in the race. It has always been a real good track for me."

As Houston and his Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge teammates prepare for the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona, the focus is clearly on making the most of the first of 25 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events. Leaving Daytona with some solid points in the bank is a priority for the Ultra Motorsports contingent.

"It is one of the most important races we run all year long," Houston claims. "Even though it is the first race of the year, you still need to think about collecting as many points as you can. The Daytona race dictates how your season shapes up. If you can come out of the Daytona race with a solid top-five or top-ten finish then you put yourself in position to capitalize on subsequent good runs. If you put four or five good runs together you can find yourself leading the points race. Look at what Matt Kenseth did last year in Cup. He was able to build a big points lead and even though he didn't run that well at the end he was able to hold on for the championship. At Daytona you have to finish, then finish first. That is how I look at it."

Houston closed out the 2003 NCTS with six consecutive top ten finishes and a pole at Texas in October. He knows that last season's late success and the time spent testing and developing the 2004 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge Ram with crew chief Dennis Connor should provide huge benefits entering this year's campaign.

"There's definitely a carryover, but I don't think we were there yet," Houston says. "Everyone was still getting acquainted, the trucks were all new to me, the way they drove and everything about them. And in some aspects, they were to Dennis as well because he hadn't been here that terribly long either. So I think just because of time, we're going to be that much better. Knowing that you're going to show up week in and week out and be a Top 5 truck - I think we'll be able to do that. I think we'll be very strong and win our share of races."

The Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona International Speedway is slated for Friday, February 13th. The race will be broadcast live nationally by The Speed Channel, XM Satellite Radio and MRN Radio starting at 8:00 pm ET.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston