Roush Reorganizes Truck Program

Roush reorganizes truck program By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online LIVONIA, Mich. (Feb. 17, 1998) Roush Racing's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series operation has dropped from three teams to two, and driver Chuck Bown is at least temporarily on ...

Roush reorganizes truck program By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online

LIVONIA, Mich. (Feb. 17, 1998)

Roush Racing's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series operation has dropped from three teams to two, and driver Chuck Bown is at least temporarily on the sidelines due to a change in the level of involvement by one of the racing combine's sponsors.

LCI International, which had sponsored the Ford F-150 driven by Joe Ruttman in the series since 1997, decided after the 1998 season-opening Chevy Trucks Challenge in January to re-evaluate its involvement. While the company plans to continue its participation in NASCAR, team owner Jack Roush decided to consolidate his truck operation into two teams.

For the rest of the 1998 season, Ruttman will drive the No. 99 Exide Ford, while Cintas Rookie of the Year candidate Greg Biffle's No. 80 Grainger Ford team is basically unaffected by the move. Bown will remain with Roush Racing as an R&D driver.

"We run our race teams as businesses," said Stephanie Smith-Marquez, director of sponsor operations for Roush Racing. "Without a third sponsor we didn't have enough money to run three teams at the level we want to operate them. Unfortunately this was really a financial decision, and we want to have two very well-funded teams rather than running three on a shoestring."

And most unfortunately for Bown, who won the Bud Pole Award in the season-opener and who dominated half the event, is currently cast solely in the role of R&D driver.

"We want what's best for Chuck," Smith-Marquez said. "We plan to use him as much as we can and try to find a sponsor for him to pick right up in the truck series."

"It's frustrating. It's always difficult to take apart something you've been building for years, and it's a tough thing to do to Chuck Bown, who's done so well for us. It's not our first choice ... We're sorry it had to happen but we're very glad we're able to make room in other places for our employees."

Most of the team members who had worked on Bown's crew have either been shifted to the two remaining operations or re-assigned within Roush Industries, which employs roughly 1,300 persons in its varied divisions.

"I want to race, but ..." Bown said circumspectly. "Maybe I'll do a limited schedule with Roush with some test sponsors. If nothing comes about, I guess I'm the designated test driver."

At the very least, one of Roush's NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers, Jeff Burton, has already expressed an intense interest in having Bown return to the R&D role he first assumed in 1996, prior to jumping in to the Exide Ford truck at the beginning of the 1997 season.

"Our worst case scenario is that Chuck would drop back to the R&D role he first had with our operation in 1996," Smith-Marquez said. "In that role he'll work with our Winton Cup, Busch Series and truck teams as a test driver. But we're working very hard right now at finding him a sponsor to continue in the truck series."

But no amount of hard work can remove the sting from Bown's situation.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," Bown said of his strong start that's temporarily been curtailed. "I've had a lot of good times (in my career) but there's been a lot of frustrations, too. That's just the nature of the business."

In this particular case, the nearly three-month hiatus between the first and second series races may be a blessing for both Bown and the team. "Well, once Homestead comes we'll be going every week," Bown said of the April 4 Florida Dodge Dealers 400 at the Metro-Dade Homestead (Fla.) Motorsports Complex. "I'm hoping I'm in a Roush truck and running all the races."

Smith-Marquez said "If the money was right, we might do a partial season for a sponsor."

Courtesy of NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle