Draft day nears for NCTS drivers By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2000) Halfway through the 1998 season, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series implemented green flag pit stops. The result? Instant parity. The last 13 races produced 12...
Draft day nears for NCTS drivers By Brett Borden
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2000) Halfway through the 1998 season, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series implemented green flag pit stops. The result? Instant parity. The last 13 races produced 12 different faces in Victory Lane.
The drama known as "Sprague and Hornaday" was replaced by a variety show on wheels. And the critics seated in the stands and in the trucks gave it rave reviews.
Last year parity could never quite catch up to the No. 50 Grainger Racing Ford. Greg Biffle collected trophies like they were stuffed animals at the County Fair. Nine times he hit the bullseye and took home the prize.
This year, the NCTS season kicks off with its inaugural event at Daytona International Speedway. This isn't the ring toss at the County Fair. For many drivers this IS the County Fair. And because of that aerodynamic phenomenon we call the draft, almost every driver entered has a fair chance of finding his way to Victory Lane.
"The whole thing here is who you draft with," said Bryan Reffner. "And we actually got a couple of good teams to draft with and had a good stable truck."
Late in Saturday's practice session at DIS, Reffner found his name atop the speed chart. It was there because of the draft, and he knew it. That is why he and his team (the No. 3 Menards Chevrolet) chose not to dodge the draft, but to embrace it.
"We need to finish a race running up front, so we've been working on nothing but what (the truck) does around people," said Reffner. "We haven't done anything as far as going fast by ourselves, so we're just going to keep working on changes that affect us around people and concentrate on that because this whole race is going to be nonstop shuffling front to back. We'll see how it pans out."
Jimmy Hensley has panned out gold before -- first at Nashville and then last year at Martinsville. Now driving in what was formerly two-time champion Ron Hornaday's equipment, he says Victory No. 3 could be right around the next banked turn next month.
"The Rensi Motorsports Chevrolet is running really well in the draft," said the driver of the No. 16 Silverado. "We struggled a little bit really on solo runs without any help. But the thing ran really well in the draft and we're real excited about that."
Bobby Hamilton had never had a chance to floor it around DIS without restrictor plates holding down his speed. Not until this past weekend, that is. He took a few turns in his No. 18 Dana Dodge and swapped positions a few times with Biffle.
"I wasn't here when there wasn't any restrictor plates," said the NASCAR Winston Cup veteran. "I hear it is (like old times), though. They really drive good. It's a perfect scenario for a rookie to come down here. A lot of downforce. A lot of drag. The speeds are down. The things drive good. If everybody uses their head, they're going to see a heck of a race."
Andy Houston was one of the 12 different winners in the second half of the 1998 season. He has not been able to make his way back to Victory Lane since, but he believes he has as good a shot as anybody in this year's opener.
"It's a lot of fun," said the driver of the No. 60 CAT Rental Stores Chevrolet. "I'm enjoying it. I feel like this is going to be a really good race. Seems like there are a lot of guys who are going to be really competitive. I think the draft is going to be huge, just like Busch or Winston Cup. Even though we don't have plates on, the things will probably draft the way they do. I don't think anyone's gonna pull away."
Which means someone less familiar with Victory Lane just might pull a rabbit out of his hat on Feb. 18, thanks to the magic of the draft.