St. Louis: Round five preview

Cook played hurt when he won at Gateway International in 2002 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 24, 2006) -- If you spot Terry Cook's wife Amy taking his temperature this week, don't worry about the driver's health. In fact, Cook might even be...

Cook played hurt when he won at Gateway International in 2002

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 24, 2006) -- If you spot Terry Cook's wife Amy taking his temperature this week, don't worry about the driver's health.

In fact, Cook might even be pleased with a reading significantly higher than 98.6.

That's because the driver of the No. 10 Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford was decidedly under the weather with flu-like symptoms when Cook visited Gateway International Raceway's Victory Lane in 2002.

"Basically, leading up to that whole week I was sicker than a dog," said Cook, who hopes to break an 87-race winless streak in Saturday's Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 at the 1.25-mile track in suburban St. Louis. "Right before the race, they were actually supposed to send me to the care center where I was supposed to get some IV solutions but me being afraid of needles, I ran the other direction, downed about three bottles of (a sports beverage), jumped into the truck and went on to victory."

Cook's Gateway victory was significant in another way. It was the first of four 2002 wins for his current sponsor. The down side, of course, is that the Ohio native hasn't won since August of that season at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

His drought is the second-longest current streak by an active series winner.

Cook and crew chief Dennis Connor, the latter a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, believe they're gaining. Cook joined ppc Racing in 2005 and won the Budweiser Pole at Daytona in his first start for owner Greg Pollex.

The team came close to winning -- Cook cut a tire while leading a few laps from the finish last July in Kentucky -- and Connor, who backed Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-Way Freight Toyota) to 1997, 1999 and 2001 titles, came aboard at season's end.

Cook has seen the early years when the top teams were affiliated with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series owners. There have been high and low points, but he believes 2006 represents the biggest challenge yet.

"I think it has gone through an evolution up and down and I think right now it's at its height or at the top of the ski slope," said Cook, who has participated in 219 races since mid-1996. "But every time I say that, the ski slope keeps getting bigger and bigger so next year will probably even be bigger than this year and so on and so on."

Cook's best 2006 finish is 11th in Atlanta, but Connor remains optimistic. He's especially pleased with changes made during the near-month-long break following the April 1 Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.

"In our particular case, myself not being an expert of the Ford body, we went to the first couple of races and I was able to evaluate the trucks that we had," Connor said. "We've come back and cut three bodies off and are in the process of re-installing more aerodynamically-friendly configurations and even rebuilding those trucks so that when we start the nine-race stretch (in mid-May) we will, number one, have enough equipment to race and number two, that the equipment will be the best we possibly can put together."

Thus, Connor isn't concerned about Cook's 14th-place status, more than 200 points behind current leader Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Ford).

"It's kind of a testing period at the beginning of the season," Cook said. "If you haven't got your stuff exactly the way it needs to be, you at least have time to react to it. I don't think we have dug ourselves a hole ... that we can't get out of. Fortunately, we've had time enough to react to it and make our equipment more complimenting to the needs of our driver."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Mark Martin