NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, celebrated his second win of the 2002 season at The Milwaukee Mile on Saturday, and this weekend he and the K-Automotive team head to Kansas Speedway where they hope...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, celebrated his second win of the 2002 season at The Milwaukee Mile on Saturday, and this weekend he and the K-Automotive team head to Kansas Speedway where they hope to celebrate the one-year anniversary with sponsor Power Stroke Diesel with another trip to victory lane. The K-Automotive team, led by owner and crew chief Bob Keselowski, ran unsponsored for the first 11 races of the 2001 season, but since teaming with Power Stroke, Cook has gone on to record two poles and two wins in 22 races. With the win last weekend, Cook also made the biggest jump in the point standings, vaulting into sixth place, 129 points out of the lead. Cook spoke about the team's progress over the past year and the relationship he has with his owner/crew chief.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
THIS WEEK MARKS THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR FIRST RACE WITH POWER STROKE DIESEL AS YOUR SPONSOR. WHAT DIRECT IMPACT HAS SIGNING A SPONSOR HAD ON THIS TEAM?
"With Power Stroke Diesel behind us, it's allowed us to get on a great Ernie Elliott motor program. We're up on the 'A' program now, but we're also putting together great trucks. The team is able to purchase more equipment and we've hired more guys at the shop. Overall, we've been able to accumulate the assets it takes to run up front each and every week. That's something that we didn't have last year, but we have it this year. That's the biggest turnaround."
YOU CAPTURED YOUR SECOND WIN OF THE SEASON THIS PAST WEEKEND, BECOMING ONLY THE SECOND TWO-TIME WINNER THIS SEASON. IS THAT AN INDICATION OF HOW COMPETITIVE THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES IS THIS YEAR?
"The truck series is as tough as it has ever been. I've raced with guys like Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague and Mike Skinner, and they just dominated the series. Those guys were tough, but the competition level was only three to four trucks deep. Now there are 10 to 12 trucks each and every week that have an opportunity to win. Guys like Ted Musgrave and Robert Pressley have many, many laps in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and the experienced veterans over here racing with us now are tough to beat. It's a situation where at any given weekend, there are 10 to 12 trucks that can win and we've moved our program up a notch this year and that's why we're contending each and every week and running up front. We got a win from the pole at Milwaukee and we were contending for the win at Memphis, but the biggest thing is, again, the equipment that we've been able to add to get us to that point. They always say you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run, and those are the steps we've made. You can't expect to win when you're not running in the top 10, and, you can't expect to run in the top five in points when you're not running in the top 10. It's just the evolution of getting your program up to speed and I think the K-Automotive Power Stroke team is there now."
THE TRUCK SERIES IS VIEWED AS A PROVING GROUND FOR UP-AND-COMING DRIVERS, BUT IS THE HEALTH OF THE SERIES DEPENDENT MORE UPON THE YOUNG DRIVERS OR THE VETERANS?
"Probably more so the veterans. You've got some young guys that are very talented. Travis Kvapil and Brendan Gaughan are two very good racers. I think the key here is the program that you're with. Travis happens to be with an awesome program. Not to take anything away from Travis or Brendan, but they're with awesome programs and that's allowed them to capitalize and win early in the season. I think the grizzled veterans, like Robert Pressley, who has a little bit of a bad-luck spell - he will be back here. He's going to be tough to beat each and every week. Ted Musgrave, he's there every single weekend. These guys are going to be right there along with Mike Bliss and David Starr. There are a lot of programs running really good right now. I don't see this series with the veterans versus young guns scenario over here; I think it's more of what program you're with."
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF FORMER WINSTON CUP DRIVERS WHO RETURNED TO THE TRUCK SERIES THIS YEAR.
"I think the whole key is if you ask a Robert Pressley or a Rich Bickle, anybody that is coming to run with us, the very first thing they say is how happy they are and how much fun they are having running with the truck series. This is more of a laid-back series where you're not traveling 36 weekends out of the year, the testing schedule is not as demanding, and it's a lot more laid back than the other series we run with. The guys that come back, they're having a lot more fun and again, no matter if they go to the Busch Grand National Series or Winston Cup Series and if they are not successful there, it could be the program. It's not necessarily the driver, but it could be the program. The cars might not be good enough or the motors aren't good enough; it's a situation where you have to have all of the pieces."
YOUR CREW CHIEF BOB KESELOWSKI IS ALSO THE TRUCK OWNER. IS THAT A STRAIN ON THE DRIVER-CREW CHIEF RELATIONSHIP?
"It always has its pros and cons. In our situation, I think it has more pros than cons. Not only do I have an owner who is my crew chief, but he's also an experienced driver. He's won on this series before; a lot of people forget that. He's a very proven driver in his own right. Just by the fact he's a driver/crew chief makes him that much better, and the fact that he's an owner/crew chief makes him that much better, too. He can appreciate what pieces and components he has to put on the vehicle, how expensive they are, and they don't sacrifice. It's not as though we have an open budget to buy whatever we want and get anything we want because they are very frugal with their money. They make sure that they're buying the correct parts that we need and that we have stuff to race with each and every week."
SOME DRIVERS USE THEIR CREW CHIEFS AS SOUNDING BOARDS. DO YOU EVER FEEL THAT YOU HAVE TO BITE YOUR TONGUE BECAUSE IT COULD IMPACT YOUR JOB SECURITY?
"Fortunately, I don't have that. Honestly, there's nothing that I want that I don't get. Bob, Ron and Kay Keselowski have made sure that this year, with Power Stroke Diesel behind us, that we have everything that we need, so it's not a situation where I get out of the truck and say, 'If we would have had this or would have done that.' If there's anything that we can look back and say that we shouldn't have done it was Darlington. We were just pulling too much gear in the motor. We had a great motor from Ernie Elliott, but it was our own fault, and I was part of our decision-making process. If we look back on anything, I always kinda kick myself in the butt. This is a team, and we win and lose together and I feel like I'm a part of every decision. That's another great thing about this program. They let me be a part of all of the decision-making processes. It's doesn't have to be a certain way, and they let the driver help make a lot of those decisions. That's one reason why I'm very happy over here because I like to be a part of the decision-making processes."
MOST TRUCK SERIES TEAMS DON'T HAVE RACEDAY CREW MEMBERS. WITH THE IMPORTANCE OF PIT STOPS NOWADAYS, IS THE SERIES GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE HIRED HANDS MAY START BEING UTILIZED?
"We are at that point. The truck series evolution has brought with it a lot of changes in a short period of time. We used to race on little tracks for small money. We used to run the same motors six races in a row. We're now racing on big tracks for a lot of money, and we replace our motor after every single race. The evolution of the truck series has changed a lot. We went to live pit stops, we went to four-tire pit stops, and I think the next step is to start having specialized personnel. Probably the first place you start to look at it is specialized tire changers and tire carriers. You can work your jack man and gas man in there, but your tire changers and your tires carriers, those guys have to practice more, and the only way that you're going to practice more is to specialize in that. Right now, our rear-tire changer is our fabricator and our front-tire changer is our mechanic. The carriers are both mechanics. We're in a situation that the guys in the shop that build and prepare these trucks every week and are traveling full-time and changing tires. Don't get me wrong, they do an awesome job, but you can only get so much better with limited time to practice. When you're working at the shop, you can't practice that much; you have to focus on getting the trucks prepared. I think that's the next evolution of this series is to have specialized crew members for special duties, and the first place you look at is pit stops."
WITH YOUR FOUR TRUCK SERIES WINS COMING AT THE SMALLER, FLATTER TRACKS, DO YOU VIEW YOURSELF AS MORE OF A SHORT-TRACK DRIVER?
"Traditionally, this is a short-track program. We ran fifth at Martinsville and second at Memphis, but we've also proven that we can run well at the mile tracks. We won Gateway, which I guess they classify as a superspeedway because it's over a mile in length. We can win anywhere we go, but I think this program may favor more the flat track stuff, but I think we'll run very well at Kansas. I'm excited about going back to Kansas because that's a Power Stroke Diesel track. That's a track where we ran our first race with Power Stroke last year and we didn't give them the show we wanted to give them last year. We were a little embarrassed there in our first race with a new sponsor. We had a motor problem halfway through and some fuel issues that relegated us to a poor finish; we had a top-10 truck only to finish 20th. We're trying to get one of our best trucks refurbished in time to run there and hopefully we'll have a good shot at winning it with the momentum that we're carrying."