BACK-AND-FORTH LEAD SWAP KEEPS COMPETITION HEATED IN CINTAS ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR COMPETITION Only two points separate the top contenders in the Cintas Rookie-of-the-Year battle after 19 races in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Greg Biffle ...
BACK-AND-FORTH LEAD SWAP KEEPS COMPETITION HEATED IN CINTAS ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR COMPETITION
Only two points separate the top contenders in the Cintas Rookie-of-the-Year battle after 19 races in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Greg Biffle recaptured the lead from Andy Houston after the 15th race of the series in Nashville, but Houston's third place win at Louisville on August 29 narrowed the gap to a mere two point spread. The next chapter in the Biffle-Houston duel for Cintas Rookie-of-the-Year will be written September 10th in Richmond, Virginia.
Houston performed well in Louisville, but his success at that track wasn't a foregone conclusion. In prior races, Houston had performed with remarkable success on superspeedways, capturing the pole at Roger Penske's California Speedway and the outside front row at Bruton Smith's Texas Motor Speedway, but his performance on short tracks was somewhat less than stellar. Houston's Crew Chief, Rick Ren, coached Houston to play it safe, "Don't get in trouble. Don't get put in a position to get spun out.
"Our goal as a new team is to win that Cintas Rookie title," continued Ren. But he acknowledged that Houston was operating under greater stress than usual, as his one-year old toddler was scheduled for major surgery following the race. "All that and the team owner is from Kentucky, so the whole entourage was there. It was a 'must do well' situation.
But his determination paid off, "I know he sat on top of the wheel and concentrated real hard. Maybe the track reminded him of Hickory, where he cut his teeth," Ren said. "He wants that lead back pretty bad."
Veteran Crew Chief Ren also discussed his personal agenda for this relatively young team. "I want to win it (Cintas Rookie title) for personal reasons. I was the Crew Chief when Ricky Craven won the rookie title in '95, so if I could do that in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, I'd be the first to do that in both series. I know it's not going to be easy. I mean we're racing against Biffle and Roush Racing -- they're a tough organization."
The Roush Racing stable, with five Winston Cup teams and two Craftsman Truck Series teams, is famous. Looking back on his own team, that started from scratch only months ago, Ren commented, "We've come a long way in a very short time. Basically, we want that Cintas Rookie title. That's our main goal.
He finished, "You only get a chance to win that Rookie-of-the-Year award one time."