MOORESVILLE, NC- (July 26, 2004) - For political pundits, Michigan is considered a battleground state, a crucial contest that will go a long way in determining who will win the 2004 presidential election. For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver...
MOORESVILLE, NC- (July 26, 2004) - For political pundits, Michigan is considered a battleground state, a crucial contest that will go a long way in determining who will win the 2004 presidential election. For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Andy Houston, Michigan International Speedway is another in a long line of battlegrounds that will help determine who wins the NCTS crown. Houston and his Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge crew are attempting to climb out from under a disappointing start to the 2004 NCTS season, and they know just how important this weekend's contest at Michigan will be in helping to determine their fate.
"This team has shown me a lot in the last few weeks," Houston said. "We haven't had the kind of start to the season that we expected, but we have bounced back. Crew Chief Trip Bruce and all the guys on this Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge team have fought hard to get us back to where we need to be. I think we are a lot closer to winning than we were a few weeks ago. Hopefully Michigan can provide us with a great finish."
Houston has fond memories of the two-mile tri-oval nestled in the Irish Hills of Michigan. It was a spirited performance at Michigan in one of Cal Wells' first NASCAR endeavors that earned Houston a full-time Cup ride.
"I made my Cup debut there and ran really good," Houston remembers. "Actually that run was what got me my Cup ride in 2001. We started in the back and made it all the way up to sixth, and with 40 laps to go the engine blew up, but for my first time in a Cup car it was pretty respectable. We ran in the top-ten most of the day and had a good car, so in a way Michigan is kind of special to me. It has always been a fun racetrack. The last time I was there with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series was in 2000 and we finished fourth."
Michigan International Speedway has many characteristics that racecar drivers look for -- it is fast, it has plenty of room to maneuver and it lets the driver search for that perfect line that allows them to get the most out of their chassis.
"It is a big wide-open fast racetrack," Houston claims. "You can run four and five wide and you can pass people wherever you catch them. You don't have to worry about having them hold you up because you can find a way around them. You can move around on the racetrack and find a groove that works better for you. A lot of times at Michigan right up by the outside wall works really good if you can get the groove worked in up there. It's not uncommon to struggle getting off turn two because you tend to get tight on exit. Depending on the aerodynamics of these trucks you can get in a big pack and it makes your truck even tighter. You have to be able to get your truck to rotate in the center and avoid that tightness as you come off the corner. You have to have a good motor and a good slick body that allows you to get down the straightaway, but so much of the track is corner, it really is a compromise and it all has to work together."
Houston says the draft plays a big part just about everywhere the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competes. At Michigan the draft is even more of a factor in the eventual outcome than at any other track outside of Daytona.
"Even in places where the draft wouldn't affect a Cup car it will affect the trucks," Houston said. "It plays a big role at Michigan. You don't want to get caught running side-by-side with anyone at Michigan for very long because when you do, you make a big hole and the entire pack behind you just runs right up on you. If you have someone beat or if someone has you beat, it's important that you let them go because you will end up racing ten trucks instead of one if you continue to run side-by-side."
The Line-X 200 at Michigan International Speedway is scheduled for Saturday July 31st. The race will be broadcast live nationally by the Speed Channel, MRN Radio and XM Satellite Radio at 1:00pm ET.