Thirty-one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams took advantage of an open test session at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday, but absent from the landscape for the first time in over five years was the No. 99 F-150 fielded by Roush Racing. Roush ...
Thirty-one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams took advantage of an open test session at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday, but absent from the landscape for the first time in over five years was the No. 99 F-150 fielded by Roush Racing. Roush Racing, which began fielding two full-time Craftsman Truck teams at the start of the 1997 season, introduced the No. 99 entry on a part-time basis in 1996 when its Winston Cup drivers, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Ted Musgrave drove it in the series' second year of competition. Since that time, the No. 99 Ford has been driven to Victory Lane 11 times by five different drivers, including Martin, Joe Ruttman, Mike Bliss, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle. Max Jones, general manager of Roush Racing's truck operations, spoke candidly about the situation of the two-truck operation.
MAX JONES, General Manager - Roush Racing Craftsman Truck Series Program
THE DECISION HAS BEEN MADE NOT TO RUN TWO TRUCKS THIS WEEKEND AT DARLINGTON. WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE NO. 99 TEAM? "We've had to park it until we get a sponsor. We can't run it without money. We ran it at Daytona without any money, but we need to make it perfectly clear that we haven't shut it down, we're just not going to run it until we can get some financial backing. We're actively searching for a sponsor, probably more so than ever to get the team back on the track."
HOW WILL THIS DECISION AFFECT THE DEVELOPMENT OF JON WOOD? "It is going to affect him because we've always run multi-car and multi-truck teams and you're able to make changes quicker. We had eight different sets of shocks that we wanted to test at Darlington, and now Jon has to try all those by himself. In the past we were able to use the 99 and the 50, and the crew chiefs were able to get together, so it speeds that process up. It will affect us some, but we've been able to put together a really good team. We've got guys from both teams, but they will have to work that much harder and Jon will have to work that much harder."
DID YOU COMBINE THE TWO TEAMS, OR WERE SOME CREW MEMBERS DISPLACED? "We had to temporarily move some people around the organization, and we moved some of the 99 guys over to the 50 team. Roush employs over 1,800 people in its various engineering and development activities, and we've had to move some of our guys, at least temporarily, into other departments. We have the trucks ready to return to competition immediately and as soon as we can get some backing we will re-assemble the team. The problem with this is that we had two championship-caliber teams. The 99 team won two races last year, and it's an awesome group of guys across the board. It was very difficult to pick, but we stuck with the most experienced, long-term guys and moved them to the 50 team. And like I say, I'm planning on this being short term because we are looking at getting them both going again."
WHAT IS ROUSH'S COMMITMENT TO JON WOOD AND THE NO. 50 TEAM? "We are committed to Jon. He's under a long-term contract. Part of this was that we didn't have a driver because of the new age requirements with NASCAR. Kyle (Busch) had to go away for a year and do something else, and that was part of it. We didn't have anybody to showcase to sponsor that was under contract. It's tough to sell a sponsor on a team without a driver."
WILL ROUSH HAVE ANY INVOLVEMENT -- ENGINEERING OR PERSONNEL -- IN KYLE BUSCH'S ASA TEAM? "That's a standalone program. We have placed him with a well-established team and they're committed to running the full ASA season. I'm involved in a day-to-day basis, but it's a standalone deal."
ARE YOU STILL LOOKING TO RUN KYLE BUSCH IN THE TRUCKS NEXT YEAR AS A TEAMMATE TO JON WOOD? "We're definitely going to run Jon and Kyle next year. We're still trying to sell sponsors on the trucks this year, but that's something that we're working on as well. It's just unfortunate with everything that happened. We didn't land a sponsor for the 99, and like I said earlier, part of that is not having an identified driver. That happened on the first of December, that they (NASCAR) said we couldn't run Kyle, so we had to change our plans pretty quick."
JON WOOD-50-U.S. Navy Racing Ford F-150
HOW DOES THE DECISION TO RUN ONE TRUCK THIS WEEKEND AFFECT YOUR ABILITY TO ADAPT TO A TRACK LIKE DARLINGTON, A TRACK YOU HAVE NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE? "It's going to make things a little tougher not to have them around. Instead of having two shots at finding a decent setup, I'm only going to have one now. But, I'm confident enough in Dan (Binks, crew chief) and the team that we should be really good. They've been to a lot of places and have done a lot of different types of racing, so we should be OK. David Pearson is with us today and I'm hoping that his experience here in the past will help us this weekend. From what I'm told, this place hasn't changed in nearly 50 years, so we're relying on David to help bring us up to speed."
DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? "Not really. We set our goals based on what we thought we could do as a team. We'll all just have to work a little bit harder to achieve success, but we know that we have the talent and the experience to accomplish what we set out at the beginning of the year. I think that once we get to all of the tracks that I've run at before, it should help things out some."