This Week in Ford Racing July 1, 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, captured his first pole of the season last weekend in Milwaukee, and the seven-year NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran is hoping that...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 1, 2003
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, captured his first pole of the season last weekend in Milwaukee, and the seven-year NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran is hoping that victory lane isn't far behind. Cook enters this weekend's race at Kansas Speedway 172 points out of first place in the standings, nine races into the 25-race season. However, Cook, who's five truck series wins have come at tracks 1.25 miles in length or less, must find a way to win on the superspeedways with the next two races coming on tracks measuring 1.5 miles. Cook spoke about the team's performance on the superspeedways and the hotly contested points battle.
TERRY COOK -29-Power Stroke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford F-150
HISTORICALLY, THIS TEAM MAKES A RUN AT THE POINTS DURING THE SUMMER STRETCH. WITH THE POLE AT MILWAUKEE, ARE WE STARTING TO SEE TREND CONTINUE?
"I can't explain why that is, but the more races we run back to back, the stronger this team is and the more we get fired up and start running better. Last year at both Kansas and Kentucky we were contention all the way through the race, running in the top five, and ended up running sixth in both races and we were actually very disappointed. But, to a lot of teams a sixth-place finish is something to be pretty pleased about. If you can run fifth or sixth and consider that a bad day, that's not too bad of a day really. We're taking back a truck we did a lot of testing with at Kentucky at a Ford test a couple of months ago. It ran real well for us last year and we made some changes and modifications that we learned in the test, so I feel that when we get to Kansas and roll off for the first practice that we will be one of the trucks to beat. That's Kansas and the very next week is Kentucky, and if that truck comes out of Kansas unscathed, I'm sure we'll take it to Kentucky and I'm sure we'll be right there again. If you look at the schedule and you look at the next five races coming up, these are some of the best tracks for us. These are tracks that we just run extremely well at all summer long, so we're looking forward to that."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE VIEWED AS A SHORT-TRACK SPECIALIST?
"No, not really. It's nice to be marked as a guy that's winning; it doesn't matter where it is. It's disappointing that our speedway program hasn't come to fruition, but the only thing I can say is that we've tested Talladega three times, Daytona twice, we flat-out wore out Kentucky for two days and we tested Nashville for two days, so we feel our speedway program has excelled this year. We proved that at Daytona. We were in contention to win and had it not been for an air hose coming off the motor late in the race, the Daytona 250 would have been ours. I'm happy for Rick Crawford and his bunch that they went on to win it for Ford, but I thought we were really in the catbird seat to win that. The results didn't show there what we were looking for. In Dover, we were in contention and we had a hole in the radiator. In Charlotte, we were in contention and cut down a tire. About the only speedway race that I can think of this year that we weren't in contention was Texas and that was just working with a new crew chief. The driver was trying to sort out what he wanted and what the crew chief wanted, and we didn't quite jell together and had a bad combination. But again, the tracks coming up that are speedways are tracks that we have tested together other than Kansas, and we feel really good about the program coming up."
WITH THE TESTING POLICY IN THE TRUCK SERIES, IS IT DIFFICULT TO IMPROVE UPON YOUR WEAKNESSES BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THE TESTING RULES THAT ARE IN PLACE IN THE OTHER TWO MAJOR SERIES?
"It does. If you were a Cup team and you were dominant on every track but a road course, you could wear out the road courses. If you were not very good at Charlotte, you could wear out Charlotte. In our situation we can't. Fortunately for us, we work real well with other Ford teams when it comes time to pick a particular track where we want to test at because each manufacturer is allowed to pick two tracks. Fortunately for us, we were able to pick two speedways to test as opposed to two short tracks or flat tracks. It's hard to zone in and get better at the tracks when the testing policy doesn't allow you to go to those tracks. About the only other thing you can do is run an ARCA race somewhere or run a Busch race or Cup race somewhere, and we're not equipped or staffed to do that. We mainly just have to stay focused on the truck effort and when you do that you're not testing where you need to be testing."
BOB KESELOWSKI HAS BEEN AT THE TRACK THE PAST FEW WEEKS AND SEEMS TO BE GETTING MORE INVOLVED WITH THE TEAM. HOW IS HIS HEALTH AND WILL INTERIM CREW CHIEF RICK REN STILL BE AROUND IN A FEW WEEKS?
"I think from the standpoint of the Milwaukee weekend, I think this was the first weekend that Bob has really got back involved. We let Bob come back in on his own pace. The whole idea was to let Bob get healthy. His health requirements are number one and racing is number two. We knew that when Bob got better that he would get back into working with the team more and he told me that this week was one of the best weeks that he's had since his incidence. That is fantastic news in itself, and the fact that he is working back into the team has only made myself and Rick work together even more. With the particular truck we ran at Milwaukee, Droopy Dog, we tried a lot stuff with that thing over the past year and a half and we know a lot of stuff that does work and doesn't on that truck. For Rick, we're kind of shortening up the learning curve by saying, 'Hey, we've tried that and it doesn't work, so let's try this because it does work.' That's helped a bunch and knowing that we're coming up on some tracks that last year we were mildly competitive at - Kentucky and Kansas - that will again shorten up that learning curve. When you bring a new crew chief into a situation, and the best example right now is Dennis Conner coming to the 2 truck. Well, you still have Tim Kohuth there, who was the crew chief and is now the team manger, and things were still clicking along there so Tim could help shorten the learning curve for Dennis and Jason working together. Over here, when Rick came into the picture we didn't have that luxury. Bob was still getting up to speed and recovering, so now that Bob is working back into system we can already see results. Rick Ren is a super crew chief and he's brought a lot to the program. Bob has reiterated that Rick is the crew chief and he will make all the calls from the pit box.
THE WINSTON CUP AND BUSCH SERIES COMPETITORS RETURN TO DAYTONA THIS WEEK, A RACE WHICH IS SEEN AS THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE SEASON. THE TRUCK SERIES HAS ONLY HAS NINE OF ITS 25 RACES THIS SEASON, SO IS IT TOO EARLY TO BE TALKING ABOUT THE POINTS RACE?
"It's way too early. Take our team last year as an example. We came from two DNFs basically in the first two races of the season and by the race at IRP, which is usually at the end of our summer stretch, we were five points out of the lead. It's way too early to be talking about points. We're still racing for wins. In my belief, to win a championship you need to run up front each and every week. This team hasn't done that yet. We've been running up front, but we've had some dumb luck where we haven't had the finishing results. But, to win the championship you need to lead laps and the only way you lead laps is to have a fast enough truck to get up there and lead laps. You're not going to win a championship by staying out and leading a lap while everyone else pits. You win a championship by having a fast enough truck to get up there and lead laps. When you do that you're going to lead laps and that will eventually turn into a win. When you start doing that week to week, that's when you win a championship. I look at each of the 25 races we have and try to maximize our points position every single day. I look at the final position, not the points at the end of the day. If you can't run second you want to run third. You don't say, I can't run second so we need to get five extra points by staying out and leading a lap when everyone else pits. If you start doing that you'll end up shooting yourself in the foot because you've just given yourself a bigger deficit to climb out of when you do pit and have to make your way through the field. You try to maximize your day and try to lead as much as you. To start point racing now is premature. The only thing the points determine right now is where you park your trailer and when you go through tech. Other than that it's irrelevant."