This Week in Ford Racing October 8, 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, remains in the hunt for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship, but with four races remaining the 22-race season, this weekend's...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 8, 2002
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, remains in the hunt for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship, but with four races remaining the 22-race season, this weekend's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway can make or break the team's run at the championship. After overcoming a 100-point penalty after the first race of the season to climb his way to second in the points, just five points out of first, Cook has now slipped to fifth place, 177 points behind first-place Mike Bliss. Cook, who already has four wins this year on the circuit, knows it may take a few more wins to get back in the thick of the points battle.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
WITH FOUR RACES REMAINING IN THE SEASON, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO GET BACK IN THE HUNT FOR THE TRUCK SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP? "We're going to continue to do what we've been doing all along, even when we were second in points, five points out of the lead. We went with the same strategy then and that's what we're going to continue for the last four races, and that's to maximize our points situation each and every week. One of the things that we've learned over the years when you're running for a championship in any division is that you are only in control of your own destiny. You can't control what the point leader or second or third or fourth place is going to do, so you can only control what's within your grasp, your program. We know what we can do with the Power Stroke Diesel Ford, so we're going to go in and try to control our own destiny and maximize our points. That means we want to lead as many laps as we can, collect as many bonus points as we can and hopefully win the race and collect maximum points there. Obviously, if we continue to do that we're going to end up somewhere in the top three or four. Probably the only shot we have at winning this is to have a little bit of help from the top two or three guys to have some of the bad, rotten luck that we've had over the past couple of races. You don't wish bad luck upon anybody, but, realistically, that's probably our only shot at winning this championship at this point."
YOU'VE HAD SOME MOTOR FAILURES OVER THE COURSE OF THE SEASON, MAINLY AT THE START OF THE SEASON AND THE PAST TWO RACES. HAVE YOU ISOLATED THE PROBLEM? "It's probably a little bit of everything. The problem that we had earlier in the year at Darlington was probably more of our own fault by putting too much gear in the motor. That was a team decision and I was a big part of that. We thought we were doing the right thing at Darlington, but the lap times didn't fall off like we thought they would, and ultimately we had way too many RPMs in the motor and eventually blew it up. The problems that we've had the past couple of weeks, I really don't know exactly what's happened. I think we just had a part failure at Texas, and at South Boston, we just had motor constantly overheating, and I'm not sure why. I haven't talked to anybody from the engine shop or anybody from the race team as far as what happened to that motor, so I'm not really sure exactly what happened, but obviously we had severe overheating at South Boston, and we didn't need that there."
YOUR TEAM USES AN OUTSIDE VENDOR FOR ITS MOTORS. ARE IN-HOUSE MOTOR PROGRAMS MORE BENEFICIAL TO TRUCK SERIES TEAMS? "Obviously, each program has its pros and cons. Personally, I like the program we've got. It's a good thing that we've got it. I think Ernie Elliott has been building us great motors; I've been very happy with them. I just think we need to get on top of our program a little bit better with his engine package, whether we get to the track and we're not properly tuning them or whether we aren't running the right cooling system with his motors, I don't know. I can't put my finger on it, and, again, until that motor gets back from Ernie Elliott's shop, the one that we had problems with at South Boston, we really won't know what happened. I can't sit here and say right or wrong what happened to the motor, but honestly, not by having it in-house, I don't think that's a problem. I think that when you bring a motor program like that in-house, at least at the truck level, I think you create more problems. Now, if I was running a Winston Cup team and had a spin-off truck program, that would be different, but just to have a truck team with a motor program, I think that kind of overloads you."
YOU GET YOUR MOTORS FROM ERNIE ELLIOTT, WHO ALSO BUILDS MOTOR FOR DODGE ON THE WINSTON CUP SIDE. DO YOU FEEL THAT'S A DISADVANTAGE FOR YOUR PROGRAM? "Ernie Elliott considers himself to be an independent contractor. He's not a factory guy for Dodge by any means and he'll tell you to his grave that he's an independent contractor; he really doesn't rely on or ask for any help from any of the manufacturers. He continues to build Winston Cup Ford motors for Geoffrey Bodine when he runs the James Finch car, and I think there's another one or two other Winston Cup motor programs that he's involved with. Of course, he's building them for myself and Crawford, but he does do a lot of the Dodge stuff. The Ford motors come out of Dawsonville, Georgia, and the Dodge motor R&D stuff that Ernie has comes out of Dawsonville, but the Dodge motors are kept in the Charlotte area. The Ford motors exclusively come from Dawsonville, and Ernie oversees every step of those. I've got all of the faith in world that Ernie is doing the right thing with our motors, and I think he will continue to provide us with great motors. We've seen chassis dyno numbers from this year and on two occasions we've had as much if not more than most of the field there when they've chassis dyno'd our trucks or even Rick Crawford's. I know Ernie is producing horsepower and his motors have been fairly reliable, but without knowing exactly what has happened the past couple of weeks to the motors, I can't really say that he's done us a bad job because he hasn't; he's done an outstanding job."
THIS WEEKEND'S RACE IS PARAMOUNT IN YOUR QUEST FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, YET YOU HAVEN'T HAD THE SUCCESS ON THE MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS THAT YOU'VE HAD ON THE SHORT TRACKS. "It's obviously a situation right now where you put all of your focus on the very next race at hand, and we've had two weeks to think about it and two weeks to brew on our misfortunes, so it's nice to get back racing again. I always say that you're only as good as your last race, and our last race was a very sub-par performance. We need to go to Vegas and prove to everybody that we are a championship-caliber team, and what they saw at South Boston isn't something you normally see out of the Power Stroke Diesel Ford. Vegas is a track that I've always run good at, and K-Automotive, as a team, has always run well at, we just haven't been able to put the finishing results together. We're taking what I think is one of our best trucks out there. We have struggled typically at the mile-and-a-half tracks, but when you say struggle, we've been a third- through sixth-place truck and we've been running sixth at every mile-and-a-half track, so it's not like we're out of the ballpark. We're just not where we need to be leading laps and collecting the bonus points we need to get back in this championship race. Hopefully, we'll get out there and have the right package under the truck and be as competitive as we hope we will."
THE TRUCK SERIES SCHEDULE IS SLOWLY BEING PIECED TOGETHER. WITH THE WAY IT STANDS RIGHT NOW, ARE THERE ANY GLARING OMISSIONS IN YOUR OPINION? "The only thing I may see as a problem is that I definitely want to make sure that when we're racing a short track, whether it's South Boston, Bakersfield or Memphis, if that place can't almost be at maximum capacity, in my opinion, we don't need to be there. You go to a track like South Boston in Virginia, I think the place seats 10,000 people, if that, and we're at half capacity. That's a pretty poor crowd if you ask me. I don't know what the reasoning might be for not having a good crowd there. I think we need to keep the short tracks on the schedule, but if we can go to a Kansas Speedway or the Milwaukee Mile and put in 40 to 60,000 people in the stands, why can't we go to a South Boston and draw 10,000 people? There should be people swinging from trees trying to get into that place, and the same thing at Bakersfield, and even at Memphis; we had a sub-par crowd there. I want to go back to those venues, I think they're good for the truck series -- the short tracks -- but we need to figure out a better way of putting people in the stands to have a better audience. Again, we're in the entertainment business and you can't live in the entertainment business very long without having a near sellout crowd, so when you're only selling 10,000 seats it's pretty sad when you can't sell out 10,000 for a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race."
IT WAS ANNOUNCED TWO WEEKS AGO THAT SPEED CHANNEL WILL COVER THE TRUCK SERIES RACES BEGINNING IN 2003. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGE? "I don't know right now if it will help it or hurt. I'm kinda sitting on the fence right now. The main reason I say that is because there are some definite things that will be good for the series like not having conflicts with a college football game or college basketball game. Our television time slots will now allow us to run live races all the time. ESPN is only a two-hour television slot and the race winner will sometimes get to victory lane and you can't always get a race interview. It's nice to be able to stay there and get all of that. I understand that there will probably be a pre-race show and a post-race show at every venue; that's good for the series. My main concern is the viewing audience. Everybody recognized ESPN. Almost every household in the world that has cable or satellite has ESPN. Right now, the SPEED Channel is more like a pay-per-view channel because you have to buy a certain package to get it. If you don't have it in your cable vision area, you have to call your cable company, and hopefully there are enough requests where they have to add it to their lineup. You're still at a point where the SPEED Channel isn't as successful as ESPN. Everybody recognizes ESPN as the worldwide leader in sports, and I think in that aspect it will hurt the series. There are some pros and cons with both situations, but I'm hopeful that the truck series coming to the SPEED Channel will drive viewership up, and we'll have more households request SPEED Channel similar to what FX and TNT did with Winston Cup. Is the truck series that strong to drive the viewership to the SPEED Channel? I don't know the answer to that and we'll just have to wit and see."
WHEN YOU WON THE RACE IN ST. LOUIS EARLIER THIS YEAR, IT WAS YOUR FIRST TRUCK SERIES VICTORY SINCE 1998, BUT THERE WAS NO TIME LEFT IN THE BROADCAST FOR A VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW. DID YOU FEEL THAT YOU MISSED OUT ON SOMETHING? "Not really. You know that's part of the deal. You know it's a two-hour television slot, and if you get on, you get on, and if you don't, you don't. Personally, I didn't feel like I was slighted. It's the same thing as the blown motor. Was I upset because Ernie Elliott didn't give me a motor that made the whole race? You're a little upset at the moment, but you realize that that's part of racing and I feel the same way about the television package. That's part of the program and you know that going in."'