NASCAR Craftsman Truck FORD HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY MORE COMPETITIVE OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS OF THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES. DURING THE INITIAL YEAR OF COMPETITION, 1995, THE MANUFACTURER HAD ONLY ONE POLE AND FOUR WINS. THE FOLLOWING...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
FORD HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY MORE COMPETITIVE OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS OF THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES. DURING THE INITIAL YEAR OF COMPETITION, 1995, THE MANUFACTURER HAD ONLY ONE POLE AND FOUR WINS. THE FOLLOWING YEAR FORD DRIVERS WON SIX RACES AND SAT ON THE POLE EIGHT TIMES. THE 1997 SEASON SAW A FURTHER INCREASE IN BOTH CATEGORIES WITH EIGHT WINS AND NINE POLES. WITH ONE RACE REMAINING IN 1998, SIX DIFFERENT FORD DRIVERS HAVE GONE TO VICTORY LANE 10 TIMES, AND EIGHT DRIVERS PUT THEIR F-150'S ON THE POLE 16 TIMES.
KENT HARRISON, FORD NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES MANAGER, TALKS ABOUT THE CHANGES OVER THE PAST FOUR SEASONS, AND WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE FOR FORD IN THE SERIES.
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TRUCK FORD STARTED WITH IN THE SERIES AND THE NEW F-150 MODEL WHICH BECAME AVAILABLE 1996? HOW MUCH OF AN IMPACT DID THE DESIGN CHANGES HAVE ON FORD'S INCREASED LEVEL OF COMPETITION? "Although the difference between the 1995 and 1996 body style looks vastly different, there are not tremendous differences in terms of aerodynamics. You are still pushing the same basic envelope through the air. The drag coefficient of the new body style is a bit lower, mainly due to the reduced windshield angle. That feature will give you some benefit on super speedways." LAST YEAR FORD'S EIGHT WINS CAME ON SIX SUPER SPEEDWAYS AND TWO ROAD COURSES. WHAT CHANGED BETWEEN THE 1997 AND 1998 SEASONS TO ACCOUNT FOR THE THREE SHORT TRACK VICTORIES THIS YEAR? "I believe the teams are beginning to understand what kind of short track chassis set-up is required to win. We tried to direct our Manufacturer's tests to allow the teams to learn generic set-up information which can be used at all short tracks. Finally, we worked on our aero package to gain maximum downforce."
WHY HAVE SO MANY TEAMS SEEN AT LEAST SOME LEVEL OF SUCCESS THIS YEAR? "I believe the main reason why we have been so competitive this year is both the new-for-98 Ford teams and the maturation of our existing teams. The addition of Roehrig Motorsports and driver Tony Raines to the Ford camp has made a big difference in our program. Raines and his team have gone to victory lane three times this year (I-70, Texas and Louisville).
"As a rookie last year Stacy Compton showed potential as a driver. Impact Motorsports responded with the addition of Kevin Cram as crew chief, which pushed the driver and the crew to a new level. Kevin and Stacy have definitely established a relationship which has become the base for the team's success. That relationship resulted in two poles and wins at Portland and Topeka.
"In addition, Roush Racing has posted victories and poles with its drivers Joe Ruttman and Cintas Rookie of the Year candidate Greg Biffle. Ruttman is a veteran in the series, and runs up front most races. Joe has one victory (Monroe) and two poles to his credit this year. Biffle has been a threat to win on several occasions, and has shown an aggressive qualifying style that put him at the top of the starting grid four times.
"While Mike Bliss' season may not been what he and his team had hoped for this year, Mike added four front row starting spots to the Ford pole count and two wins to this year's victory column.
"Two other drivers who have been strong contenders are Rick Crawford, who won for the first time in his truck career at Homestead, and Boris Said, who won at Sears Point and sat on the pole at Topeka.
"All in all, eleven drivers and teams have contributed to the Ford manufacturer points total this year. They include the drivers listed above as well as Ernie Irvan, Tony Roper, Bryan Reffner and Tom Hubert.
"While I will not be content with the program until Ford has attained the driving and manufacturer titles, I believe we have laid a good foundation for the future in the truck series. I think you will see four or five Ford teams in contention for the championship in 1999."