From the driver's seat By Rick Crawford (July 2, 1998) With the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series having this past weekend off from competitive racing, NASCAR's other top divisions were on the road. Road course that is, as the NASCAR Winston...
From the driver's seat By Rick Crawford
(July 2, 1998) With the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series having this past weekend off from competitive racing, NASCAR's other top divisions were on the road. Road course that is, as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visited Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., and the NASCAR Busch Series was at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. Those two divisions have two road course races each year, while the truck series has three. Since an overwhelming majority of the drivers that compete in these three divisions come from oval-track backgrounds, racing on a road course -- with all its twists and turns and ups and downs -- is a different experience.
Road racing is more of a thinking man's race. You don't necessarily race against other drivers, you race against the course. It's a high load of concentration that's involved because you're always busy doing something -- turning left and right, up-shifting, down-shifting, making sure you brake in a straight line -- all things that are specifc to each course. Most ovals we race on are similar to somewhere else we've raced in the past. The road courses -- the trucks visit Sears Point, Watkins Glen and Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas -- are all unique.
There are several factors that go into being successful on road courses. First off, you obviously have to have good equipment, specifically built and balanced for a right-left course.
While Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup winner, Jeff Gordon, is not a road racer by training, he is a talented driver with a good team that took advantage of a test earlier in the season at Sears Point. He and his Hendrick Motorsports team went out to Northern California to work at the track for three days and spent most of their time working on the gearing of their car. On Sunday, it looked like the team had a real strong motor, but what happened was the team really took advantage of having the right gear in the car.
The second big factor is experience.
The more laps you have on a road course, the better you will be. That sounds pretty simple and in concept it is. You look at guys like Ron Fellows, who won this past weekend's NASCAR Busch Series race at The Glen and is a road racing specialist. He had good equipment, but he has logged many more miles on road courses in general and Watkins Glen in particular than probably half the field combined. It was obvious that if his equipment held up, he would be the winner.
The third key on road courses is staying on course. There were several instances in both races this past weekend where a car was running well, went to pass for a position and got in trouble. If you go off course, it could be a long time before you get back on, thus costing many spots. Ask Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was running second to Fellows, slipped up and wound up in eighth. That cost him 28 points in an ultra-tight championship battle with Mike McLaughlin and Matt Kenseth. Oh by the way, three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regulars -- Jack Sprague, Ron Hornaday and Dave Rezendes -- all used their "off" weekend to tackle the road courses. Sprague (sixth) and Rezendes (14th) raced at The Glen, while Hornaday (14th) competed at Sears Point. All three guys came away with quality finishes -- that definitely speaks well for the caliber of drivers we have in the truck series.
Trucks Set to Visit Milwaukee
The truck series is back in Milwaukee this Independence Day Weekend. The Milwaukee Mile is a nice track -- it reminds me of Phoenix in that it's a mile long, it's very fast and there's plenty of room to run. It also has a lot of great history. I know my team owner -- Tom Mitchell -- was excited about us racing there because he had an Indy car team that raced there a while back. This will be a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series/NASCAR Busch Series companion weekend for us as we race Saturday (TV: CBS; Syndicated Radio: NASCAR Truck Network; 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time) and the NASCAR Busch Series races Sunday.
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Kicks Off Second Half at Daytona
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts its second tour to most tracks this coming weekend at Daytona International Speedway. And for the first time at "The World Center of Racing" the race will be held under the lights on Saturday night. Gordon has regained the championship points lead, though the top four -- Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett -- are separated by just 74 points. Who can forget what happened at the last race at Daytona -- Dale Earnhardt winning his first Daytona 500 back in February. I'm not sure what will happen this time, but I know it will be interesting. I'll step out and predict Jarrett as the winner of the Pepsi 400 -- he's been pretty quietly moving up through the standings and I think he's about to make some noise.
Question of the Week
Kester Lake of Bath, Ontario, Canada, asks, "Do you ever do any mechanical work on the No. 14 Circle Bar Ford, now that your days are more filled up with media relations, sponsors, travel and testing?"
Each year it becomes tougher to spend time actually working on the truck. I've always been a hands-on racer so I'll do as much as I can. I'm lucky that I have Roland Wlodyka as my crew chief and a hard-working crew to make up for my absences in the shop. We pretty much average around a 14-hour day and the easiest way to break out my time is into percentages: 30 percent -- management of employees, 25 percent -- sponsorship and public relations, 25 percent -- me actually getting hands-on with the equipment, 15 percent -- travel, and 5 percent -- testing.
(Rick Crawford drives the No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & R.V. Park Ford in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. If you would like to write Rick a question to have answered in this column, please send it to Siberini Sports Services; P.O. Box 943; Harrisburg, N.C. 28075. Everyone who sends in a question will receive an autographed photo and be entered in a drawing for a trip for two to the Nov. 8 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in Las Vegas, which includes airfare, hotel and passes to the race, courtesy of Accommodations Plus of Athens, Texas.)
Source: NASCAR Online