Joe Ruttman, driving the familiar blue and white No. 18 Dana Dodge, enters the 2000 season with one thing in mine: To get back to the top of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point battle. Ruttman, who had finished in the top four in...
Joe Ruttman, driving the familiar blue and white No. 18 Dana Dodge, enters the 2000 season with one thing in mine: To get back to the top of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point battle. Ruttman, who had finished in the top four in points every year of the Truck Series existence, fell from that plateau last year after starting the year without a ride and missing six races. But after joining the Bobby Hamilton Racing team in June of last year, he and the team have been on the rise. If winter testing is any indication, it should be no surprise to see Ruttman back in contention for the championship. Ruttman does however have a new crew chief, but he feels that may be an advantage. "Danny Gill being named crew chief for this team is a big plus," said Ruttman. "He is good. He'll try new ideas and he has no fear and that's what the Dana team needs. I think this team is a dark horse. If these guys ever get a taste of victory they could be unstoppable." Joe Ruttman has been close on three occasions to winning the "Big One" here in Daytona, but as luck would have it, he has two third place finishes (1982 and 1991) and one fourth place finish (1983). Ruttman however has not gone home empty handed every time he has raced here. He won the Auto Racing Club of America 200 event in 1982, but he feels the track owes him one. When the 2000 schedule for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series was released last year, it made two members of the Dana Racing team very happy because it was going to give them a chance to race near each one's home. Dana Ebersole and Gary Mann both have family in the Central Florida area. Ebersole, Assistant Truck Chief, lived in the Apopka area. Some of his family members still live in that area. Currently Ebersole's mother, father and older brother live in the Orlando area. Ebersole started his career in racing at Dave Crum's engine building facility (CRE Machine) in downtown Orlando. He joined Dana Racing at the beginning of the 1999 season. Mann, on the other hand, is from here in Daytona Beach. He attended high school in Daytona Beach and also went to Daytona Beach Community College before moving to the University of Florida. Mann's mother and sister both live in the Daytona Beach area. He began his racing career in and around the Daytona area before fate brought him to Nashville, Tennessee, where after a short stay at Sadler Racing, he moved to Dana Racing at the beginning of 1999.
Associate sponsors for 2000: The Bobby Hamilton Dana Racing team is happy to have Bowman, Coastal, Craftsman, Dayco, Dupont Automotive Finishes, Goodyear, Mechanix Wear, and Southern Pride Trucking as associate sponsors.
Joe Ruttman on Daytona:
"In this day and age, testing is imperative to performing on the track especially at places like Daytona, and everywhere else for that matter. The thing to remember is back in 1982 when I won the ARCA race down here, you just drafted and ran as hard as you could. Now that has changed because of aerodynamics. With the streamlined trucks and cars that race, the aero package on the vehicle can be worth two or three miles per hour on a superspeedway. This is huge. So you not only have to race hard, you also have to try and set a guy up and work the air to get by him. That's the big difference."
"The nice thing is when the race starts, I will have a teammate and I think we'll work really well together. I have an advantage over most of the other drivers and the Dana team and myself plan to make the most of it."
"One of my biggest memories about Daytona is the fact that on two different occasions, if I would have made a different move on the last lap, I may have won the Daytona 500. So I'd like to get even a little by winning this race in February."