This Week in Ford Racing July 13, 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Terry Cook, driver of the No. 10 F-150, is attempting to regain the form that saw him win four times in 2002 that included a win at Gateway International Raceway, host...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 13, 2004
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 10 F-150, is attempting to regain the form that saw him win four times in 2002 that included a win at Gateway International Raceway, host of this weekend's Craftsman Truck Series event. Cook captured the pole at this year's season opener at Daytona in his first race with ppc Racing, but currently finds himself in 15th place in the point standings, 376 points out of the lead. Cook, who has finished in the top 10 in points each of the last three season, spoke about the increased level of competition and evolution of the truck series.
TERRY COOK -10-Power Stroke Diesel by Int'l Ford F-150
YOU HAVE COMPETED IN THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES SINCE 1996 AND HAVE WATCHED THE SERIES EVOLVE INTO A MAJOR TOURING DIVISION. ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE EVOLUTION OF THE SERIES?
"Absolutely. It's definitely evolved into a major national touring series. The series has evolved because NASCAR is very good at giving the fans what they want. We are in the entertainment business. And that goes for the Busch Series, NEXTEL Cup or any form of motorsports. NASCAR has the biggest fan following in the U.S., and that's because NASCAR is the innovator and keeps giving the fans what they want from the entertainment business. Fans like to see live pit stops, and who wins the race out of the pits. I don't think the fans liked the halftime breaks we used to have in the series. We went from halftime breaks to live pit stops. We went from being able to change just two tires under caution to changing four tires. We went from racing at really small tracks where you couldn't get a large crowd to having 100,000-seat venues. One of the things that this series has done to bring more entertainment value to the fans, we pair ourselves up a lot more with the NEXTEL Cup Series and that gives fans a chance to see a lot more racing over the course of a weekend. Typically, fans would only see Cup qualifying on Friday, and now they sometimes get to see qualifying on Friday and a truck race at night. Being in the entertainment business you always have to bring more to the fans that are out there. We cut out the old Colorado Speedway, Louisville and I-70, and everybody kinda said we moved away from our roots, but that's why we have the national Late Model touring series. That's why you have the Southwest Tour and the All-Pro Series. Those are the regional racing series at the short tracks. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has evolved into what it has become because we are giving the fans what they demand."
IS THE DELETION OF THE SMALLER TRACKS AND MORE COMPANION RACES WITH NEXTEL CUP AND BUSCH A TRADE-OFF FOR A SMALLER SCHEDULE?
"Yes and no. I think we do need to get away from the little, small tracks and we need to be at the bigger venues. We're taking a series that takes $3 million a year to operate a team, with very expensive equipment, and we were taking it to facility that didn't really accommodate our type of racing. That's not to downplay those tracks, they play an important part in regional racing, but we are a national touring series and that's the evolution of the series. When we first went to Evergreen Speedway, you could probably count the tractor-trailer rigs that were pulling the equipment in on one hand. Now, you can count the rigs that are not tractor-trailer rigs on one hand. It's the evolution of the series, and we don't need to be at the tracks that won't accommodate our form of racing, and that means the equipment, the teams and the race tracks themselves to accommodate the expensive race vehicles that we race with. I think that we should be looking at is paring up with more Cup events. Even though we've kinda gotten away from the Evergreens and the Portlands and those tracks, there are some venues out there that we could be going to that we're not."
WITH ONLY 25 RACES ON THE SCHEDULE, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO MAKE UP GROUND WHEN YOU HAVE A BAD RACE OR TWO?
"It gives you that many less races to try to rebound from any problems. And that's the thing with the truck series, you don't typically see the champion have many DNFs because there are so few races to get the job done that one or two DNFs hurts you terribly in the points standings. We've seen that already this year. I'd love to see more races on the schedule, but as long as those races are at venues that want the truck series and will support the races. I'd hate to go somewhere to race just because we want to have 30 races on our schedule. We're in the entertainment business, and as long as we can get the fan support, I'd love to see us get near 30 races on out schedule."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE VIEWED MAINLY AS A SHORT-TRACK DRIVER?
"No, not really. It's nice to be marked as a guy that's winning; it doesn't matter where it is. It's disappointing that our speedway program hasn't come around, but we're a new team and each week we're working better as a team, learning and applying what we learn to our trucks. We were going to be best in class last week in Kentucky, but a problem late in the race cost us a top-five finish at least. Now, when we go back and fix that truck it will be even better than it was. At some point they will only get marginally better, but we've only had about five trucks built in-house this year, so we're still making them significantly better with each iteration."
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF FORMER TRUCK SERIES DRIVERS THAT HAVE RETURNED TO THE SERIES AFTER COMPLETING STINTS IN THE NEXTEL CUP AND THE BUSCH SERIES.
"I think the whole key is if you ask a Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave or a Mike Skinner, anybody that is coming to run with us, the very first thing they say is how happy they are and how much fun they are having running with the truck series. This is more of a laid-back series where you're not traveling 36 weekends out of the year, the testing schedule is not as demanding and it's a lot more laid back than the other series we run with. The guys that come back, they're having a lot more fun and again, no matter if they go to the Busch Series or the NEXTEL Cup Series and if they are not successful there, it could be the program. It's not necessarily the driver, but it could be the program. The cars might not be good enough or the motors aren't good enough; it's a situation where you have to have all of the pieces. With four manufacturers supporting our series this year we have more factory teams than any other series in NASCAR, and that says a lot for the health of our series."
THE TRUCK SERIES IS VIEWED AS A PROVING GROUND FOR UP-AND-COMING DRIVERS, BUT IS THE HEALTH OF THE SERIES DEPENDENT MORE UPON THE YOUNG DRIVERS OR THE VETERANS?
"Probably more so the veterans. You've got some young guys that are very talented. Carl Edwards and Travis Kvapil are two very good racers. I think the key here is the program that you're with. Travis happens to be with an awesome program. Not to take anything away from Travis or Brendan, but they're with awesome programs and that's allowed them to capitalize and win early in the season. I think the grizzled veterans, like Bobby Hamilton, who has a little bit of a bad luck spell - he will be back here. He's going to be tough to beat each and every week. Ted Musgrave, he's there every single weekend. There are a lot of programs running really good right now. I don't see this series with the veterans versus young guns scenario over here; I think it's more of what program you're with."