Open-wheel graduates East, Reid get a race in front of home crowd this week DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2006) -- Being a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series means, among other things, that you're going...
Open-wheel graduates East, Reid get a race in front of home crowd this week
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2006) -- Being a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series means, among other things, that you're going to visit a lot of tracks you've never before seen.
That won't be the case this week when two freshman drivers -- Bobby East (No. 21 State Fair Corn Dogs/Edy's Dibs Ford) and Boston Reid (No. 25 Rain Out Roofing Dodge) -- finally get what amounts to a home game.
East, a former U.S. Auto Club National Midget champion and fellow open-wheel graduate Reid previously called the Indianapolis area home. Each has turned hundreds of laps at O'Reilly Raceway Park, a .686-mile paved oval hosting Friday's Power Stroke Diesel by Ford and International 200.
Their racing equipment may be a bit different -- twice as heavy in most cases -- but home is home. For a change, each will have plenty of partisans in ORP's grandstands.
"I used to go to (the track) all the time as a kid and watch Jeff Gordon win there on Thursday Night Thunder when he would race USAC midgets," said Reid, who hails from Logansport.
This won't be Reid's first NASCAR race at the track, formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park. He competed in last year's NASCAR Busch Series Kroger 250 that follows the trucks on Saturday night. Reid drove a Hendrick Motorsports entry but what he believed would be a top-20 effort was derailed by a mid-race spin.
Regardless, Reid is pleased to return to the Hoosier State.
"I'm obviously really excited to go back there in the truck because all of my friends and family from Logansport are getting a bus and coming to the track," he said.
On Saturday in his hometown, Reid participated in a charity auction benefiting the Victory Junction Gang camp. His cousin, Chris Reid, is sponsoring the Woodard Racing team this week and has rented a suite at ORP.
East won a USAC Silver Crown race at the track in 2005 and in a sprint car the season before. His father, Bob East, a premier open-wheel car builder, manufactures the BEAST chassis in a plant near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"My dad, he's won a lot of races there with a lot of different drivers, but he's won a lot of races everywhere with a lot of different drivers," said East. "I can't say that ORP is his most successful track but it was always big for us to win there to help out with his business and help him selling cars.
"When I was able to race there when I was 16, it was like a dream come true, really. Now that I get to go back there with my truck, I'm really, really excited about it for two reasons. One, I feel like I know that track really well, so I'm hoping to have a good run. Two, because it's right there in my backyard."
Reid and East will have to overcome some Indianapolis history despite their knowledge of the track's asphalt. Open-wheel drivers frequently have struggled. Carl Edwards won in 2003 but USAC Silver Crown and NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion Mike Bliss (No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Chevrolet) has yet to find the key to unlock the gates to ORP's Victory Lane.
Bliss has two top-five finishes including a third in 1995. "The only way I can describe it is to say that it is different. It is hard to take what you learn from driving a 1,000-1,500 pound Silver Crown car, and apply that to driving a 3,400 vehicle," said Bliss. "Probably the biggest thing that I have taken away from the open wheel stuff is the time on the track. I really think that that helps a lot, especially at ORP. Since it is a little tricky track, having the extra track time can do nothing but help us."
Bliss admits to over-analyzing the track and suggests his open-wheel mates treat ORP as any other short track.
"Thinking about how you should be getting through the corners and where you need to turn was always something that messed me up," he said. "What I have to do is just let the truck show me what I need to do, and then adjust on things from there, and also just do what feels comfortable, without putting the truck in the wall of course."