Ford Racing's Tim Steele Interview

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Tim "The Man Of" Steele has enjoyed success in every form of racing in which he has competed. The first driver to win $1,000,000 in ARCA competition with an astounding 30 wins in 87 ARCA starts, Steele is now piloting the...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck

Tim "The Man Of" Steele has enjoyed success in every form of racing in which he has competed. The first driver to win $1,000,000 in ARCA competition with an astounding 30 wins in 87 ARCA starts, Steele is now piloting the #21 HS Die & Engineering Ford F-150 in the NCTS. Coming off his season-high 13th-place finish at Pikes Peak, Steele is confident that this past weekend was no fluke and even better outcomes are on the way.

Tim Steele, #21 HS Die & Engineering Ford F-150

YOU'VE RUN IN FIVE OUT OF THE SEVEN NCTS RACES TO DATE. HOW HAS YOUR FIRST NCTS SEASON GONE SO FAR? "Things are definitely getting a lot better for us now than they were in the beginning of the season! We almost have all the eggs in one basket now. Ernie (Elliott) is working on the motor program trying to get that straightened out while my guys back at the shop have been working their butts off to get the chassis end of it straightened out. Now that the trucks are handling better, we can now make the proper adjustments during the race. I think that we're continuing to make improvements as we go along. We know that we're off a little bit horsepower-wise but Ernie has been working like crazy to get everything sorted out so that we can get up to speed where we need to be. I think that once we get our program together here, we'll start clicking. There is a great group of guys here that know that we will have success together. I try to preach that this is not an 'I' deal, this is a 'we' deal and we're in this together. That's what it takes to be successful."

YOU'VE BEEN USED TO RUNNING UP FRONT THOUGHOUT YOUR CAREER. HOW TOUGH WERE THE FIRST THREE NCTS RACES WHERE YOUR TOP FINISH WAS 22nd? "The early part of the year was really frustrating. I think that in the first three races, we didn't pass three trucks! At least now we're getting better. I joked with the guys at Memphis that after about 30 or 40 laps it seemed like we had passed more trucks than we'd passed all year. Now we're able to get up and race with some of the better drivers and maybe earn some respect."

THIS PAST WEEKEND AT PIKES PEAK, YOU FINISHED IN 13th, WHICH IS YOUR HIGHEST NCTS FINISH TO DATE. "If we wouldn't have broken a rocker arm at Pikes Peak, we probably would have finished in the top 10. Considering everything that we've been going through this year, it was a good run for us. If we can keep improving like we have been, we'll be contending pretty soon.

THE TEAM TOOK TWO RACE WEEKENDS OFF (EVERGREEN AND MESA MARIN) EARLIER IN THE YEAR TO SORT SOME THINGS OUT. DID THAT TIME OFF HELP THE TEAM? "As it turned out, I had kidney stones and got operated on during that time. But we did need that time off to get the trucks worked on. Up until now we were basically just trying to get trucks finished on time so that we could get to the race track and run. We didn't have the time to work on all the little basic, tweaking things that help you get the speed out of the chassis. We're still building trucks now, don't get me wrong. But we're now able to spend the time on the surface plate and massage some of the finer things that need attention."

HOW HAS IT BEEN TOUGH TO GAIN RESPECT AS A "ROOKIE" IN THE NCTS? "I've had a lot of success in the past and just about everyone in the truck series knows who I am. But I still think that no matter where you go or what you do, when you go into a new racing series like this, you've got to race with the top guys and earn your respect. Nobody gives you anything. I think that the other drivers know that I'm there to compete with them, but you still have to earn the respect. (Jack) Sprague and I go way back. We've raced at against each other a lot and we've been pretty good friends. I've run against Mike Wallace too. Ron Hornaday and I spent a lot of time talking this past weekend. I think those guys know that I'm not going to take them out for a position or do something stupid out on the track."

YOUR SUCCESS ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS HAS BEEN GOOD. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ABUNDANCE OF SHORT TRACKS BEING RUN IN THE NCTS? "It seems like everyone I talk to knows how well I've done on the superspeedways. But if you look at the ARCA series where I come from, the speedway races are the ones that are televised so you gain a lot of recognition from those races. We've won a lot of short track races too like Flat Rock over outside Detroit. I don't think you get any smaller than that track! So it doesn't really matter what track we run on in my opinion. Whatever track we're running on that weekend, that is my favorite track and the one that I want to win on. That's the way that I approach it."

WHAT ABOUT I-70 THIS WEEKEND? "I'm really looking forward to I-70 this weekend. I've raced there before in All-Pro cars. We've been really, really good every time we've been there. I've been there four times and have led each race. But we suffered some sort of bad luck situation and haven't been able to bring home a win. I was running there when we would have two or three people including myself working on the car. We had an ignition box go bad on our All-Pro car during one race so I learned my lesson about having two ignition boxes at each race. At that point, I was doing all the wiring on the car so I learned a hard lesson. We could have won a race if we would have had a backup ignition to switch to. Another time I was leading an ASA race, I was leading with about fifty laps to go and cut a right front tire down and went right into the wall. In another ASA race that I was leading, two lapped cars got into it right in front of me and took me with them. So maybe the place owes me one. I'm hoping that our luck will change this weekend and we'll be able to finish well there."

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE FOR YOU COMING INTO THE NCTS? "Even though I'm now in a truck and we run unrestricted motors, at the speedway tracks the draft comes into play pretty heavy. I've got a lot of experience with the draft running, so once we get our whole package together, I think that we'll have an advantage."

HOW DID YOU GET THE NICKNAME "THE MAN OF STEELE"? "I got that nickname back in the ARCA days from Jack Flowers and another writer who used to cover us. The name has stuck with me since 1993. Sometimes it's tough to live up to the name, especially lately."

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN RACING? "I began racing motorcycles when I was about four years old in Michigan. But you name it, anything with a motor on it, I've raced it! That's why I said earlier that any time you move into a new racing series, you've got to earn your respect. I've been racing a lot more than just cars. I came from the top of motocross racing and then went to Jet Ski racing. Every time you make a move like that, you've to start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder. My grandfather built race cars way back when and my dad used build cars with him. They won numerous track titles with Super-Modifieds in Michigan and in New York. My dad started his business to make some extra money so that he could go racing himself. But the his business got to be very successful so he decided to forget about racing himself and stick with his business. Then I came along and started and he has always supported me in all the racing that I've done. It's kind of neat because I can live out my dream to race and he can kind of live out his dream through me. He's never pushed me to do anything and it's nice to do what I want to do and get the support from him also. It's really a good situation. You don't know how fortunate I feel to be able to say that and to be in the situation that I'm in. My father has always taught me how hard it is to make a dollar or make a hundred dollars. Some people think that I've had a lot handed to me on a silver platter but believe me it's far from that. I think that working for your father can sometimes be harder than working for someone else. But we're able to separate the racing from the family things."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Mike Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Tim Steele