This Week in Ford Racing July 30, 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Jon Wood will take the next step in his NASCAR driving career this weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park when he pilots the No. 9 GAIN Ford Taurus in the Kroger 200 on Saturday...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 30, 2002
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Jon Wood will take the next step in his NASCAR driving career this weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park when he pilots the No. 9 GAIN Ford Taurus in the Kroger 200 on Saturday night, his first attempt to qualify for a Busch Series race. Wood, who currently sits 12th in the Craftsman Truck Series point standings, will pull double-duty this weekend at the .686-mile track, competing in Friday's Power Stroke Diesel 200 as well. Wood spoke about the opportunity to pilot Jeff Burton's familiar green-and-orange Taurus, and his progression in the Craftsman Truck Series, which includes 29 career starts.
JON WOOD-50-U.S. Navy Racing Ford F-150:
HOW DID THE ONE-RACE DEAL TO DRIVE THE GAIN FORD DEVELOP? "I don't know exactly how it developed. I just know that there was a lot of talk about it early in the year. I figured it was too good to be true, and then all of a sudden, they said here's the test date that we're going to use for your test at IRP in a Busch car. I think the people from GAIN really wanted to have a presence in Indianapolis since it's close to their headquarters in Ohio, and Jeff (Burton) was going to be busy not only racing the Cup car but he's also scheduled to commentate the IROC race. His busy schedule kinda worked to my benefit this weekend."
THE NO. 9 FORD HAS ALREADY BEEN TO VICTORY LANE TWICE THIS SEASON. DO YOU SEE THAT AS ADDED PRESSURE OR DOES THAT BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE KNOWING THAT YOU'RE GETTING INTO RACE-PROVEN EQUIPMENT? "I think that's added pressure, but then again, going to a place like IRP, it's not really, in my opinion, all about equipment. I think that I'm at more of a disadvantage somewhere like IRP than somewhere that's a little bit bigger of a place, maybe Loudon or Milwaukee. I learned from the test session that you just can't show up in good equipment and expect to run fast. In fact, that's something that I've learned in my year in the truck series. Just because you show up to the track every week in good equipment and a solid baseline setup, that doesn't mean you're going to go to the front. A lot of it is about experience and that's what I'm trying to gain right now."
YOU WERE ABLE TO TEST A BUSCH CAR AT IRP, BUT THERE IS NO TESTING ALLOWED IN THE TRUCK SERIES. IS THAT RULE A DISADVANTAGE FOR THE YOUNG DRIVERS IN THE TRUCK SERIES? "It definitely makes it a lot easier to be able to go test somewhere and know what to expect and have a close setup when you go back. It can only help matters and make things a little bit easier. You know what the track conditions will be like, to a degree, and that's better than guessing based off of what happened the previous year. In the trucks, probably more than the Busch Series, there's a premium placed on experience and I think the no testing rule has a lot to do with that. You only get two or three practice sessions before every truck race, and if that's your first time at that track, like it was for me last year and the first half of this year, that makes it tough. Last year, it was really tough racing against guys that had been to these tracks that we raced at 10 times or more."
YOU DECIDED TO MAKE THE MOVE TO MICHIGAN LAST MONTH TO BE CLOSER TO THE TRUCK OPERATIONS IN LIVONIA. HAS THAT HELPED THE COMMUNICATION WITHIN YOUR TEAM? "It can only help. I haven't been able to be in the shop as much as I like. I've been running around doing things, but it can only help. We're not really making excuses for each week, but we're at the top of the sheet in practice, we're qualifying better, and we're putting the pieces together that weren't there last year. We're pretty much starting all over, and that has made the transition easier. The only thing that would have made it tough is if I had a wife and family, which I don't. I didn't have to worry about that, so all I had to pick up was my X-Box and my toothbrush."
WITH THE GAPS IN THE TRUCK SCHEDULE AS THE SEASON PROGRESSES, IS THERE A CHANCE YOU MIGHT RUN A FEW MORE BUSCH RACES? "As of right now, I know it's just one race, but I know the opportunity is there to do more. All I know is that I'm racing there this weekend and that's it. I'm just going to take this one race at time, and it makes it easy when you know it's only for one race. We're not trying to set the world on fire out there this weekend, but I would like to go out and run competitively. I think this will be good for me to gauge myself against the other Busch Series drivers. The truck series is a great series for getting experience and we run on most of the same tracks as the Busch Series, so I don't think the transition would be quite as hard as going from the Winston West cars to the Craftsman trucks."
WILL THERE BE A COMMUNICATION GAP BETWEEN YOU AND CREW CHIEF BRAD PARROTT SINCE YOU HAVEN'T WORKED TOGETHER IN THE PAST? "No, not really. We got to test and it's pretty standard stuff at a track like IRP. You're loose in, loose off or tight in the center of the corner; just common everyday problems, and that's about it. Brad's a very smart guy and he's carrying the load. We unloaded at the test with what Biffle raced the previous year, so we have a teammate to lean on as well."
HAS YOUR COMFORT LEVEL IN THE TRUCKS INCREASED OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS? "I know that the past couple of weeks that my truck has actually felt like a car, it's driven so well. I used to say that I liked driving a car better because I thought they were more stable, but I think that now that we've got our truck running better, it's handling a lot more like a car. It's hard to distinguish the two. I was very comfortable in the Winston West car and when I tested the Winston Cup car; I liked that a lot. Again, both of the series are good places to be. The Craftsman Truck Series and the Busch Series are both very good learning series."
DO YOU WANT TO MAKE THE MOVE INTO THE BUSCH SERIES NEXT YEAR? "Other than to hurry and get to it because it's a step up the ladder, no, I don't necessarily think I have to go Busch racing next year."