BAKERSFIELD, CA (March 22, 2000) - For Terry Cook and the ...
BAKERSFIELD, CA (March 22, 2000) - For Terry Cook and the #88 PickupTruck.com Chevrolet, the real NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Dodge California 250 race at Mesa Marin Raceway will be this Saturday when the teams take to the tight one-half mile track for qualifying.
"The one thing you have to do at Mesa Marin is really, really qualify well," said Cook. "It's such a small track and there's so many trucks that if you have a bad qualifying effort, you can go a lap down in a big hurry. The leaders have a clear track and they're going to be coming fast. Even if you have a good race truck, if you have a bad qualifying effort, its going to be a tough day - 250 laps of trying to get to the front and at the same time keep from getting lapped."
That's precisely what happened to Cook in the 1999 edition of the Bakersfield NCTS clash when he qualified 22nd. Cook spent a good portion of the day trying to stay ahead of the leaders eventually going down two laps still finishing a very respectable 15th.
"We kind of struggled there a bit all day last year," said Cook, who qualified fourth and finished 11th in the 1998 Bakersfield NCTS event. "We just never could get the truck balanced. It was either too tight and wanted to push up in the corners or it was too loose and wanted to spin out. Also, we've gone to Bakersfield the last two years with the mindset that you really had to save the tires. But since they've added the pit stops to the series, you really don't have to worry about tire management as much as you did at one time. You still have to be concerned with it, but not as much as we used to."
Qualifying and tire management aside, Cook states there's another factor in getting around the Bakersfield track that features 17-degree banking in the corners and short, 700-foot straights.
"The layout of the track is such that Turns 1 and 2 are very similar to Turns 3 and 4," said Cook. " You want to get your left side tires down into the dirt on the inside of the turns. You want to hook a rut, just like you would in a dirt car. That's the fast way around. It's a neat little track."
Cook would like nothing better than to continue his hot start to the 2000 NCTS season. Last week, the Sylvania, OH native battled race-long engine problems and still managed to finish 14th, on the lead lap in the Chevy Trucks 150 at Phoenix International Raceway. Combined with a stellar fourth-place effort in the season-opening race at Daytona Beach, FL and a solid eighth-place effort at Homestead, FL, Cook currently rides sixth in the current NCTS season standings, just 92 markers out of first place. A strong run at Bakersfield would go a long way in pushing Cook toward the top of the point's ledger.
" It's always fun to go to Mesa Marin" said Cook. 'The layout promotes great racing, you always see good side by side passing. The PickupTruck.com team is just looking for a good day there. We didn't run as well as we would have liked to there last season, so we're definitely looking for a better finish this time around."
The Dodge California 250 will open with practice and qualifying on Saturday, March 25. The event will take the green flag on Sunday, March 26, at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time and will be broadcast live on MRN. ESPN2 will air the event on a same day, tape delayed basis, starting at 7:00PM Eastern Time.