Ruttmans Hopes to Get Back on Track

Ruttman hoping to get back on track By Brett Borden .. MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Sept. 2, 1998) Not so long ago, the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford was a runaway train headed for the top spot in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points chase.

Ruttman hoping to get back on track By Brett Borden ..

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Sept. 2, 1998) Not so long ago, the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford was a runaway train headed for the top spot in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points chase. Engineer Joe Ruttman was chugging along with four straight top-five finishes while leaders Ron Hornaday and Jack Sprague were taking turns pushing each other off the tracks.

But the Exide Express has been derailed temporarily after a trip on the L&N Railroad. Ruttman sputtered to a 27th-place finish this past weekend at Louisville Motor Speedway in the Kroger 225, after losing steam two weeks prior with a 24th at Nashville Speedway USA in the Federated Auto Parts 250.

The Exide Batteries team has two weeks to get recharged, so they are not wasting it. This week they have been testing at Martinsville Speedway, and Ruttman said the team is still struggling.

"Believe it or not, as many times as I have been around here, it still takes a little time to get geared back up to running around here, and I'm still not there," said the 53-year-old driver. "We are playing with trying to make it run better and trying different stuff. I'm hoping Greg (Biffle) will show me a new line that I have never seen.

"You never can tell. A new guy might come in and just say 'Hey, I've found it'."

Ruttman says despite his early practice difficulties, he is still looking forward to returning to Martinsville in late September (the NAPA 250 is Sept. 26).

"I like any track, but this is a fun kind of track because it's challenging," he said. "It's hard on the brakes and on the motor. It's a lot more difficult to get around here fast than most people think. You have a whole lot of gear and a lot of horsepower so you have to be concerned about spinning the tires coming off the corners. You have to look at every part of the track.

"This is probably the ultimate test of the brakes, but it's also the ultimate test of the motors because you go from the lowest RPM to the highest RPM twice in each lap so we have been changing carburetors and talking gear ratios. Each time you go out you work on every facet of the truck to try and make it better."

As far as his season goes, Engineer Ruttman will just keep repeating "I think I can, I think I can" until the season is over.

"I was hoping to keep it a three-way race and now it could turn into a four or five-way race. There are too many guys closing in here. Ultimately I want to win a championship. Last year we had a shot at it and numerous things happened got us in trouble. Earlier this year we were on a tear and then went to Nashville and lost a fuel pump and then the driver rammed into a parked car at Louisville so that really hurt us."

The fourth and fifth truck in the points race that Ruttman referred to are Tony Raines and Stacy Compton, both Ford drivers like Ruttman. The veteran Ruttman must now spend as much time keeping them at bay as he does chasing the Chevys of Hornaday and Sprague.

"The yellow truck (Raines) and the blue truck (Compton) have been running well lately, so that's not necessarily good for us," Ruttman said. "They are showing us up right now. You would like to think you are the best Ford truck. I really think now that they have closed in I just wish them a whole lot of bad luck ... I mean wish them the best between now and the end of the year."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Tony Raines , Jack Sprague , Joe Ruttman