Father knows best in Houston family

In Houston family, father knows best By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2000) Finally, Marty Houston gets a chance to bang fenders with his fellow NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors on a level playing field. Or at least as ...

In Houston family, father knows best By Brett Borden

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2000) Finally, Marty Houston gets a chance to bang fenders with his fellow NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors on a level playing field. Or at least as level as you can get taking the steep banks at Daytona International Speedway into consideration.

Houston spent the last three quarters of the 1999 season playing catch-up to his rivals, most of whom had as much as four years experience in the series on some of the tracks he was competing on for the first time. Fortunately he had his brother Andy to go to for advice, as well as another wellspring of information -- Houston's father Tommy was a stalwart in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division in the 1980s and early '90s.

Since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be making its debut at Daytona International Speedway in the NCTS 250 on Feb. 18, Marty will have the same number of notes to work from as Andy and every other driver in the field. Which means advice from his father, who still holds the qualifying record at Daytona for the NASCAR Busch Series, could prove to be a decisive advantage.

"He gives us a lot of support," Marty Houston said. "He doesn't force advice on you. He just stands there and supports you, and if you get to a point to where you're kind of stuck he'll help you out. And just having that experience to draw from, it gives you kind of a secure feeling that if you get in a situation that you're not sure what to do, nine times out of 10 he's been in it, and he knows the right way and the wrong way to get out of it.

"He's told us things that they did, and some of them you can still use. I think when he sat on the pole it was 1987. A whole lot's changed since then, but it's still Daytona and it's still the basics that get you there. He's given (Andy and me) a ton of advice as far as once we're in the race. I think he's left the pure speed up to us and he's really tried to concentrate on telling us 'Hey, once you get in the middle of the race, here's some things you might want to try when you get in the big packs.'"

The draft definitely packs a wallop at Daytona -- especially in a truck. It can take you from rags to riches in a hurry, then right back to rags just like that. Tommy's advice comes in handy because Marty's experience in drafting is limited.

"I went down and tried to make a Dash race at Daytona," he said. "I didn't really get to do a lot of drafting, but we've been to Daytona twice and Talladega twice testing and we've done some drafting at all the tests. It's pretty comfortable. From what I'm hearing from the guys who have run the Cup and Busch cars (at Daytona), the Trucks are more stable in the draft than the cars are.

"You've got a few guys -- Mike Wallace and Jack Sprague -- and some of the new guys coming in -- Jimmy Hensley and Steve Grissom -- some of those guys have some drafting experience, but not in a truck. That's the great equalizer. You know, I'm excited about it, cause I feel like going into the Daytona race that with the package we're taking down I really feel we've got as good a shot to win the race and sit on the pole as much as anyone does."

Which is a far cry from last year, when Houston had but one top-10 finish in 19 starts and his best start was 13th. He says his confidence sprouts from mechanical improvements as well as human ones.

"I think our biggest improvement in the offseason is in our equipment," he said. "We've improved the quality of the trucks. We're building. I think the first four races this year we're going to take a brand-new truck that's never been raced before.

"I'm seeing what the guys are doing in the shop and it's amazing. We're really going to have some good pieces when we show up at the race track, and I think that'll help. Freddy Fryar's taken the time to really put all the right people together. And I think right now we've got the group we want, give or take one or two, and I think we've really got a good group heading into the season."

This season could be the one where Marty becomes more than Andy Houston's brother in the minds of those in the garage area. Of course, no one will say that, but Marty knows that until you win in a series perceptions and labels are hard to shake off.

"I saw the impact that a win had on Andy's career," said Marty. "In just the way that the drivers approached him after he'd won a race. It's pretty amazing even this year. He went a full season and didn't win a race, but there's something about winning a race that takes you to another level the rest of your career, at least in that series. (Getting that first win) would be big. It wouldn't have to be Daytona. Just to win a race anywhere would be big, but to do it at Daytona would be really big.

"I'm really excited, simply for the fact that it's Daytona. That was one of the things where if you ran in the Truck Series in years past, you didn't have the chance to go to Daytona to race. When they announced it, I think everybody in the Truck Series was pretty excited. Now, we're just counting the days until we get to go."

And counting on some fatherly advice once they get there.


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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Marty Houston , Jack Sprague , Jimmy Hensley , Steve Grissom