FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Sept. 4, 2001) -- Joe Ruttman is aging like victory lane champagne. Time is being kind, with Ruttman getting better as he grows older. At age 56, the veteran driver is challenging for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series...
FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Sept. 4, 2001) -- Joe Ruttman is aging like victory lane champagne. Time is being kind, with Ruttman getting better as he grows older. At age 56, the veteran driver is challenging for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship and is entered in the Silverado 350 on Sept. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway. Despite past success on both the NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch circuits, Ruttman has never captured a NASCAR title.
In the first half of the 2001 season, Ruttman won two races and stayed near the top of the point standings. He moved into first after the 16th race of the Craftsman circuit's 24-race schedule, finding himself locked into a battle with Scott Riggs, Jack Sprague and rookies Ricky Hendrick and Travis Kvapil. At about this time, there was a change in the first-place driver for four consecutive races.
Ruttman, respected by almost everyone on the circuit, has been enjoying the battle. He believes age is relevant, especially when you're driving for one of the top teams and a manufacturer that's enjoying a dominant year. Ruttman's Dodge team is owned by Bobby Hamilton, a regular on the Winston Cup circuit.
"I'm healthy, I've got a great attitude toward racing, and I'm having a lot of fun," Ruttman says. "I've got great equipment, something you just can't beat."
Several times each race weekend, Ruttman finds himself in a situation that reminds him how old he is. Most of them involve the younger drivers on the circuit, who often look at him as if he was crazy. "Some of their dads aren't as old as me," he says.
Ruttman promises to stay positive if he doesn't win the 2001 title. He believes that with the support of Dodge and Hamilton, multiple Craftsman Truck Series championships are possible.
"It won't be the end of the world if we don't win it because I still have the desire and we can go get them next year," Ruttman says. "We've got a lot of young guys on the team here at the shop, and there shouldn't be any reason why we shouldn't be a player for the championship in the next couple of years to come."
Race tickets for all RPM Week - Texas events at Texas Motor Speedway are available by contacting the speedway ticket hotline at (817) 215-8500, online at www.texasmotorspeedway.com, or at all participating Ticketmaster outlets.