This Week in Ford Racing July 22, 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, is only in the midst of his third full season teamed with K-Automotive, but this weekend in Michigan he will help mark a milestone for...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 22, 2003
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, is only in the midst of his third full season teamed with K-Automotive, but this weekend in Michigan he will help mark a milestone for the team that has been competing on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series circuit since 1995. Cook, a seven-year series veteran, will pilot the Power Stroke Ford in the 200th truck series race for K-Automotive. K-Automotive is a true family-run operation, with brothers Bob and Ron Keselowski, and Bob's wife, Kay, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Lake Orion, Mich.-based team. Cook, who is currently ninth in the points standings, spoke about the growth and evolution of the truck series.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford F-150
THERE HAVE BEEN EIGHT DIFFERENT DRIVERS TO VISIT VICTORY LANE IN THE FIRST 12 RACES OF THE SEASON. IS THAT STATISTIC AN INDICATION OF HOW COMPETITIVE THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES IS THIS YEAR?
"The truck series is as tough as it has ever been. I've raced with guys like Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague and Mike Skinner, and they just dominated the series. Those guys were tough, but the competition level was only three to four trucks deep. Now there are 10 to 12 trucks each and every week that have an opportunity to win. Guys like Ted Musgrave and Bobby Hamilton have many, many laps in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and the experienced veterans over here racing with us now are tough to beat. It's a situation where at any given weekend, there are 10 to 12 trucks that can win."
THE TRUCK SERIES IS VIEWED AS A PROVING GROUND FOR UP-AND-COMING DRIVERS, BUT IS THE HEALTH OF THE SERIES DEPENDENT MORE UPON THE YOUNG DRIVERS OR THE VETERANS?
"Probably more so the veterans. You've got some young guys that are very talented. Travis Kvapil and Brendan Gaughan are two very good racers. I think the key here is the program that you're with. Travis happens to be with an awesome program. Not to take anything away from Travis or Brendan, but they're with awesome programs and that's allowed them to capitalize and win early in the season. I think the grizzled veterans, like Bobby Hamilton, who has a little bit of a bad luck spell - he will be back here. He's going to be tough to beat each and every week. Ted Musgrave, he's there every single weekend. There are a lot of programs running really good right now. I don't see this series with the veterans-versus-young guns scenario over here; I think it's more of what program you're with."
HAS THE TRUCK SERIES OUTGROWN SOME OF ITS ROOTS, WHERE IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE USED AS A TOOL TO BREAK INTO NEW MARKETS, SUCH AS THE NORTHWEST AND THE MIDWEST?
"I definitely think so. The days of us going to the Louisville short track, Evergreen and stuff like that is in the rearview mirror. I enjoy going to those tracks and it did help build our fan base and it did help to build NASCAR's fan base in general, going to markets that NASCAR had never even been to before. I think that was good for the series to get it off of the ground and going, and the Craftsman Truck Series has built its own fan identity. There are a lot of people that like the truck series more than the cars, and we've got a lot of Craftsman Truck Series fans out there. Any time you can feed off the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, though, it's just going to build up your series that much more. That's one of the things that the Busch Grand National Series has been able to do over the last five to 10 years - they've been able to feed off of the Winston Cup Series and that's what has propelled and grown them as quickly to what they are today. Anytime the Craftsman Truck Series can be paired up with them, whether it's Charlotte, Martinsville, Daytona or Richmond, I think it's very positive for us."
IS THE DELETION OF THE SMALLER TRACKS AND MORE COMPANION RACES WITH WINSTON CUP AND BUSCH A TRADE-OFF FOR A SMALLER SCHEDULE?
"Yes and no. I think we do need to get away from the little, small tracks and we need to be at the bigger venues. We're taking a series that takes $3 million a year to operate a team, with very expensive equipment, and we were taking it to facility that didn't really accommodate our type of racing. That's not to downplay those tracks, they play an important part in regional racing, but we are a national touring series and that's the evolution of the series. When we first went to Evergreen Speedway, you could probably count the tractor-trailer rigs that were pulling the equipment in on one hand. Now, you can count the rigs that are not tractor-trailer rigs on one hand. It's the evolution of the series, and we don't need to be at the tracks that won't accommodate our form of racing, and that means the equipment, the teams and the race tracks themselves to accommodate the expensive race vehicles that we race with. I think that we should be looking at is paring up with more Winston Cup events. We could even do companion races with the Busch Grand National Series at places like Pikes Peak and Kentucky Speedway. Even though we've kinda gotten away from the Evergreens and the Portlands and those tracks, there are some venues out there that we could be going to that we're not."
WITH THE TALK A FEW WEEKS AGO ABOUT ROUSH RACING CONSIDERING MOVING ITS TRUCK TEAMS TO THE BUSCH SERIES AND THE FACT THE BOTH HENDRICK AND CHILDRESS HAVE LEFT THE TRUCK SERIES TO FOCUS ON BUSCH RACING, IS THE BUSCH SERIES BECOMING THE DEVELOPMENTAL SERIES THAT THE TRUCK SERIES ONCE WAS?
"No. You can say that you have this guy gone and that guy gone, but you have Bobby Hamilton with a three-truck team, you have Ultra Motorsports that used to be a one-truck team that is now a two-truck team with Ted Musgrave and Jason Leffler. You have Kevin Harvick and Ken Schrader running truck races, so the truck series has by no means suffered. A lot of people want to say it has suffered and that the competition is not there. I think the competition is as tough as it has ever been. Just because we don't have a Jack Sprague or a Ron Hornaday there doesn't mean that the truck series is done. Those teams that fade away always seem to get replaced by more good teams. The sport is very healthy and we've got some great competitors there and we're showing that every week by turning teams away each and every race. We're sending anywhere from four to six trucks home each week and the Winston Cup Series and Busch Grand National are begging for cars to show up. They're calling people up to fill their fields and the Craftsman Truck Series is turning people away. Granted, we don't start as many, but any time you can turn people away is a sign of healthy growth. It's also a bad thing because you don't want to put teams out of business by sending them home every week, but yet it shows that the depth of the series is there."
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF FORMER WINSTON CUP DRIVERS THAT RETURNED THE TRUCK SERIES THIS YEAR.
"I think the whole key is if you ask a Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave or a Robert Pressley, anybody that is coming to run with us, the very first thing they say is how happy they are and how much fun they are having running with the truck series. This is more of a laid-back series where you're not traveling 36 weekends out of the year, the testing schedule is not as demanding, and it's a lot more laid back than the other series we run with. The guys that come back, they're having a lot more fun and again, no matter if they go to the Busch Grand National Series or Winston Cup Series and if they are not successful there, it could be the program. It's not necessarily the driver, but it could be the program. The cars might not be good enough or the motors aren't good enough; it's a situation where you have to have all of the pieces."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO OVERCOME A TRIPLE-DIGIT POINTS DEFICIT THIS YEAR WITH ONLY 25 RACES ON THE SCHEDULE?
"It gives you that many less races to try to rebound from any problems. And that's the thing with the truck series, you don't typically see the champion have many DNFs because there are so few races to get the job done that one or two DNFs hurts you terribly in the points standings. We've seen that already this year. Hopefully when the schedule comes out next year, we'll be back up to 24 or 26 races and that will make me happy."