RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 10, 1998) Notes and Quotes following Thursday night's Virginia is for Lovers 200 at Richmond International Raceway: With the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entering one of the tougher parts of the schedule within the next...
RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 10, 1998) Notes and Quotes following Thursday night's Virginia is for Lovers 200 at Richmond International Raceway: With the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entering one of the tougher parts of the schedule within the next couple of weeks, the point race for the season championship could trade hands several times. Ron Hornaday, driver of the No. 16 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet, might've lost the lead Thursday night -- the latest date in the series' four-year history the lead has changed hands -- but he thinks that his team has its ducks in a row for the next two weeks as the series will visit three different tracks in a short span of 13 days. "We have good equipment waiting to make the long haul and I don't think that we'll have any problems as far as that goes," said Hornaday, who unofficially fell 57 points behind defending champion Jack Sprague. "It may be hard on the crew trying to get things ready in such a short time span, but our equipment and trucks have already been set aside and we're going to be fine." Jimmy Hensley, who is currently seventh in the point race, has similar thoughts about the hectic schedule. He didn't hurt himself after a 16th place finish Thursday night.
"We've got seven or eight trucks to last us the rest of the season, so the toughest part for us will be to transport all of our equipment back and forth to the venues," Hensley said. "We have great equipment and I think we'll be fine. We've done so well to jump back up in the points lately, so I really want to hold on to what we've done so far and hopefully improve on that." Jack Sprague was tickled to take the point lead after Thursday night, but he was equally excited at racing for the win with long-time foe Ernie Irvan.
"Ernie and I go back a long way together, probably ten, eleven or twelve years, and he's a good race car driver," Sprague said. "We've had a lot of fun racin' each other...and we've had a lot of maybe not so much fun racin' -- but we had a good race tonight. He ran awful well tonight. "He ran second to us at California and I thought maybe he was going to win this one tonight and we'd run second to him. But like I said, once we'd get rollin' and my tires would come in and my truck would come in, I could pull away a little bit and he'd go away a little bit and I'd be able to get him." Sprague said that by no means was the NCTS point race over, but he had high hopes the win had turned his bad streak of races around.
"Well, I hope so," he said from victory lane. "We had a terrible month of August. It was very devastating to our points race but you've seen it go back and forth between Ron (Hornaday) and me -- 70 points this way and then the other way. It's not over yet. I mean he could be leading coming out of Memphis on Sunday. "Ron's an awfully good driver and he's not going to lay down and quit. And I'm not going to lay down and quit either. We've fought this thing (championship) back and forth a couple of times and I'm sure it's not over." Cintas Rookie of the Year contender Andy Houston had a great run going down the stretch, but he was knocked from third to 12th when he made contact with Joe Ruttman's going-to-the-front Exide Batteries Ford, which brought out the race's final caution.
"The race track was pretty slick tonight, but my guys did a great job in the pits," said Houston, who drove the No. 66 Addington Racing Chevrolet. He was as direct about the accident when he said "I'll tell you what happened. Ruttman basically wrecked me. I moved high, he moved up... I moved higher, and he moved up some more and he spun me." Ruttman was equally emphatic in his take on the situation. "I got up alongside of him," Ruttman said, "and the track is really slick and I think he pulled down, and we touched and he spun. I didn't deliberately try to spin him. I was trying to pass him. If he feels that way, he'll have to feel that way I guess." Boris Said indicated the Federated Auto Parts Ford crew went around the block a few times in the course of the day with his truck, but was not unhappy to come out with a 19th place finish.
"We passed a lot of trucks, but we kind of got screwed up in practice," Said said. "We had a tire on the back that was two years old, and we kept tightening the truck and tightening the truck, and then when we qualified the truck was too tight. And then we couldn't get it loose enough in practice so we just missed the set-up.
"We ran into a couple of Chevies on the track, and it still stayed tough. It definitely was the toughest truck."
Said was particularly happy to have his typically far away mentor, truck owner Ernie Irvan, on hand at this event.
"Well, like in practice I was struggling so we put Ernie in the truck, and he went the same speed so that gave me a little confidence," Said said. "He is able to give me direction on set-up. It is just good to have him around to help me with the nuances of passing people on the track." Tony Roper drove the No. 55 Icehouse Beer Ford into 13th and said "I'm not totally disappointed, but I wanted to finish in the top-10. As bad as we were in the beginning and the middle with the truck being loose, our Icehouse crew made up for it with some awesome pit stops and some great decisions on when to pit. We had a top-10 truck in the end. We were running as fast as the leaders, but that final caution at the end stopped our run." Johnny Chapman had to pull off in his initial race of at least two planned outings in the No. 66 Carlin Burners & Controls Ford when the engine went south. "We were running pretty good in practice today, but at the end of practice it seemed like the engine was getting a little soft on us, and I think we broke a valve spring," he said. "We didn't want to hurt the engine any further." Ernie Irvan thought he could take some knowledge learned in his second place run and transfer it to Saturday night's Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race.
"I think we've learned some shock-wise, and some of what we need to have chassis-wise," said the driver of the No. 28 Federated Auto Parts Ford. "Basically this is a Winston Cup car with a truck body on. That's really all they are. Right now these trucks are just like a Winston Cup car, a little longer wheel base. The aero package is a little bit different, not quite as effective. The motors aren't quite as powerful, but these Signature Motors, built by the company we have building our own motors, is awesome." Cintas Rookie of the Year candidate Wayne Anderson had the dubious distinction of brining out the weekend's first caution flag when he tagged the wall in turn 2 in morning practice. The team had to go to a backup machine. Reportedly, the wrecked truck was the 16th chassis that's been damaged to one extent or another by Anderson, the former Slim Jim All Pro Series standout. At 53 years, 10 months, Joe Ruttman is the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' oldest pole winner. After having a strong day at Richmond, capped by an eighth place finish, Rick Carelli was anxious to get on the road to Memphis, the site of Sunday's event for the NCTS. Two of the last eight events on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series calendar will be run on tracks that are new to the series: Memphis Motorsports Park and Gateway international Raceway. Carelli participated in an open test on the 3/4-mile at Memphis, August 17th and 18th and posted lap times that were consistently in the top-5 of the more than 22 drivers attending. "I've always liked tracks that have unique qualities, and Memphis is one of those," Carelli said. "I don't think you can compare it to any other venue we compete on in the truck series and I'm really looking forward to racing there."
Carelli is looking forward to Chevrolet's private test at Gateway Sept. 23-24. "As any athlete will tell you, there are ups and downs in any sport -- we had our slump in August and we expect to turn that around for the end of the season," said the driver of the RE/MAX International Chevrolet. "We'd especially like to do that at the new tracks."
Source: NASCAR Online