Homestead Saturday Notebook

Florida Dodge Dealers 400K Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2000) The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series took a page from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series when it impounded three trucks following the Florida Dodge Dealers 400K...

Florida Dodge Dealers 400K Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2000) The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series took a page from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series when it impounded three trucks following the Florida Dodge Dealers 400K for a wind tunnel test Monday. The race winning Chevrolet truck of Andy Houston, the second place Ford of Mike Wallace and the fourth-place Dodge of Joe Ruttman were selected for the test, which is a periodic occurrence in all of NASCAR's upper racing divisions.

Looking for a breakout season in the NCTS? You might not have to go any further than the Homestead race winners. Since scoring his inaugural win 38 races ago at New Hampshire -- a track that although only a mile long could be deemed quite similar to Homestead -- Houston has been on the verge of winning again -- he just never has. "We unloaded good at Daytona and the truck ran good -- we were fighting for the win and we finished third," said CAT Rental Store Chevrolet crew chief Rick Ren. "We came down here and unloaded good again but had a little miscue. We fought and fought and fought. I don't know what else to say -- we just dug in and did what we had to do to win.

"I think this is really wonderful. My whole family is here today. I'd like to thank the guys at the CAT Rental Stores for being our sponsor. This is just good stuff and this is a lot of fun."

While Houston's two-tire pit stop under a green flag sequence of pit stops seemed like brilliant strategy, the Hickory, N.C., driver said that was not quite the case. "I made some mistakes today and that pit stop was just my fault," Houston said. "The team called for a four-tire stop. You know the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has a rule that you can only change two tires under caution, and you can change four tires under green. When they dropped the jack on the right side, I went.

"It was the driver -- I hadn't made that many green flag stops. I hit my jackman, and I'm sure sorry for that and I apologize to him. It was my mistake and I guess I just had to go on and win the race."

Houston's jackman, Hugheston Caldwell, was not injured in the incident.

Sunday's victory was Chevrolet's 75th in the series and its first at Homestead.

Former NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion and NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Steve Grissom continued to learn some hard lessons in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series but he also continued to scrape closer to his first top-10 finish. Grissom was 11th, two laps down, in the No. 43 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Ram but could only shake his head after the race was over. "We didn't have a good day at all," Grissom said. "We were running at the finish, but other than that we kind of missed it on the setup."

Barry Bodine made his 11th series start but his first since September 1998 and only missed his best finish by one spot when he steadily motored through the day and ended up 13th, two laps down, in the No. 15 Black Diamond Motorsports Miccosukee Indian Gaming/Line-X Ford. His best finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is 12th at California Speedway in 1997. "It felt pretty good," Geoffrey Bodine's son said. "The truck started out really tight in the beginning and we worked on it and got it running really fast there in the end and we made up a lot of ground. It took me a while to get used to the trucks again, but I remembered why I liked the trucks -- they are a lot of fun. Once I was used to everything, we ran pretty good."

ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series veteran Bob Schacht served as crew chief on the weekend for the No. 98 Premier Truck Parts Ford of NCTS Rookie of the Year candidate Kenny Martin. Schacht won 19 races in ARCA and finished second in the 1995 championship. "I've never been to Homestead before," said Martin, who scored a top-5 finish in his first series race, the Daytona 250, "so Bob Schacht helped me get around here. I've known him for four years -- he did my ARCA deal at tracks like Pocono, Gateway, Michigan, Charlotte, Atlanta and Talladega. He's always given me good equipment and good advice.

"In fact, I called him a bunch from Daytona for his input. That race (the Daytona 250, where Martin finished fifth) was a pretty good experience. It was a wild ride all day."

Martin had more of the same on Saturday, as he struggled with his truck's handling, finally spinning off Turn 2 late in the race and retiring with minor crash damage that relegated him to 29th.

Former NASCAR Winston West Series champion Lance Hooper scored his best truck finish when he guided the No. 9 D. Burrow Trucking Ford to 18th. Marty Walsh's team also picked up sponsorship for the Florida Dodge Dealers 400K from Ingles, a supermarket chain.

Just before the halfway point, rookie driver Carlos Contreras became too ill to continue in the race. The team momentarily scrambled to find a replacement as only three trucks were not running at that time. The team tried to replaced the Mexico City driver with team manager Doug George, but since the former NASCAR Winston West Series champion and truck veteran had not practiced a truck this weekend, he was not approved as a replacement. The team parked the No. 12 Hot Wheels Dodge and took a 33rd-place finish.

Marty Houston, much like his brother, appears to have stepped up his program to a large degree this season, putting a lot of hope in the NASCAR veteran Spears Manufacturing camp. "If we can have a little bit of an off day like we did today and still finish in the top-10 we're pretty happy with that," the older brother of race winner Andy Houston said. "The Spears Silverado was a little tight all day. We just didn't turn quite as good in the center of the corner as the fast trucks. The worst was the very first run and it costs us a lap.

"We had maybe a fifth or sixth place truck but hey, first top-10 of the year and we led both races. We've tried hard to get bonus points this year and we led today, so, I guess today we had a good run. We'll get a win this year for sure."

Rob Morgan was disappointed to be an early retiree from the Homestead event, but after appearing to turn into Kurt Busch in the season opener at Daytona he was happier to have an intact truck in the garage at Homestead. "I think we lost a camshaft," Morgan said. "We couldn't get the distributor cap off so we don't know for sure yet, but it looks like the camshaft broke.

"The truck was really good and was really fast. I couldn't get by (Lance) Norick. I could run real well on the bottom and he knew that so he stayed right there on the bottom. I tried to get by him on the top but couldn't do it out there. We were just kind of buying time and waiting for him to make a mistake so we could get by but we ended up losing the engine.We'll get it fixed and be ready to go in Phoenix."

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Geoffrey Bodine , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Marty Houston , Carlos Contreras , Lance Hooper , Joe Ruttman , Steve Grissom , Rob Morgan , Bob Schacht