Joe Ruttman and the Bobby Hamilton Dana Racing team are off to a solid start to what they hope is a championship contending season. They have opened the year with two poles and one top five finish and currently sit sixth in championship points.
Joe Ruttman and the Bobby Hamilton Dana Racing team are off to a solid start to what they hope is a championship contending season. They have opened the year with two poles and one top five finish and currently sit sixth in championship points. The team's only glitch was at Daytona when, while running in the lead pack, they were caught up in a accident that eventually caused them to lose an engine and finish 19th. "We've had a little bad luck," said Ruttman. "But all in all we started off the year good. We're pleased that we have had some very fast trucks but we're a little disappointed that we have not won one of the first two races. I think the way we've started the year has been a surprise to some in the garage area, but not to the team. We knew over the winter that we had the potential to start the year off good. Now we just have to keep doing what we've been doing and we'll get that first win." If history has anything to do with that first win, then Phoenix just may be the track to do it. Ruttman won the fastest race run at the one-mile speedway in 1997 at 103.942 MPH, so he is pretty excited about the possibility of repeating that feat. Joe Ruttmam will be trying to start a new streak this week at the Phoenix International Raceway. Until last year, Ruttman had never finished outside the top 10 at an event at the one-mile Arizona track. His record of top 10 finishes stands at eight, better than any other driver. His streak was broken in 1999, due to not having a full time ride and having to start a truck for another team and then park it after only three laps. When the Dana Racing team and driver Joe Ruttman take to the track on Friday afternoon, they will be trying to start the year three for three. If Ruttman can pilot the No. 18 Dana Dodge to the fastest time in qualifying, it will be the team's third pole position in a row. The Dana Racing team is using the same truck (Catfish) they ran at Homestead. It is by far the oldest truck that Bobby Hamilton Racing runs. It ran it's first race in Topeka, Kansas in 1997 with Bobby Hamilton handling the driving duties. Hamilton finished sixth that day. This will be the 10th time Ruttman has raced Catfish. Joe Ruttman is quickly moving in on the $ 2 million dollar mark in career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series earnings. He needs only $ 55,930 to reach that plateau. Currently this season, Ruttman is sixth in money earnings at $ 33,168. Joe Ruttman and the Bobby Hamilton Racing team currently stand fourth in both miles led at 37.0 and laps led at 24. It marks a return to the top five in both of these categories for Ruttman. It also means that Ruttman and Jack Sprague are the only two drivers to have led a Craftsman Truck Series event in all six years of the series. For Bobby Hamilton Racing, on the other hand, the start of the 2000 season marks the first time in the team's brief history that they are in the top five in both miles and laps lead.
Joe Ruttman: "I dig the place. It's a fun place to race because each turn is different. You have to really know what the truck is doing to get around this place. I've had some real good luck here finish wise. I've won races here and most of the time been in contention for a solid finish. I just hope for the same result this time around."
"I try not to think about the poles because we want wins. It would be nice to win three in a row but it's more important that we win a race or finish in the top five."
"We're off to a good start this year but we really feel like we let the first two races get away from us. I think the Dana team is really starting to turn some heads in the garage area. I think everyone else is looking at us now. Maybe we won't be a dark horse in some people's eyes. Over the winter we knew if we had a top five truck every time we showed up at the track, we'd be tough."