Ten years tough

10 YEARS TOUGH -- AND GETTING TOUGHER HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- In 2005, the rough and tumble NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is celebrating "10 Years Tough," in honor of its 10th anniversary of tough-truck-on-track action. Fender-to-fender, ...

10 YEARS TOUGH -- AND GETTING TOUGHER

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- In 2005, the rough and tumble NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is celebrating "10 Years Tough," in honor of its 10th anniversary of tough-truck-on-track action.

Fender-to-fender, side-by-side, non-stop racing action from the drop of the green flag to the checkered flag has created the "Tough Trucks, Tough Drivers" image that has defined the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series over the past 10 seasons.

For two-time champion Ron Hornaday and three-time champion Jack Sprague -- both of whom were original racers in the Series and have now returned -- the growth in competition level and the growth of the Series itself is nothing short of incredible.

In fact, when the idea for a truck series was introduced at expedition races in 1994, drivers, crews and fans alike didn't know what to think of racing pickup trucks. Even three-time Series champion Sprague was unsure of the concept.

"When I first heard about this deal, the NASACR Craftsman Truck Series, I honestly thought it was a joke," Sprague said. "I thought this is going to be funny, people racing trucks. I thought that it would be a flash in the pan and then gone. I think a lot of people thought that.

"But then when I saw a truck and realized it was just a race car with a bigger cage and a truck steel body, but built along the same lines of a Cup or Busch car, I thought OK, this is kind of cool but it still is kind of funky looking. I raced in Phoenix for the first race, and have been loving it ever since."

Hornaday had the same initial thoughts, but he couldn't be happier to be back in the Series now.

"My hat's off to NASCAR and to Craftsman for sticking around all these years to see what this series was going to do, to realize the dream," Hornaday said. "Five years ago, they were asking me where I thought the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series was going, and I told them then that the sky was the limit. The answer is the same today."

Hornaday and Sprague aren't the only ones who have found a home in the Series. Veterans of the Nextel Cup Series and youngsters looking for their big break have all found success in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In fact, more than 600 drivers have tried their hand behind the wheel of a pickup over the past 10 seasons. During that time, the Series has been accessible to legions for drivers and fans as it has visited 43 tracks in 26 states.

This year, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be home to a trio of former champions -- Hornaday (1996, 1998), Mike Skinner (1995) and Sprague (1997, 1999, 2001) -- as well as defending champion Bobby Hamilton. Other drivers like Rick Crawford, Ricky Craven, Ted Musgrave, Dennis Setzer, Jimmy Spencer and David Starr will no doubt be forces with which to contend.

The Series has also become a manufacturer's battleground for pickup makers Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota.

Perhaps most importantly, the Series' fan base keeps growing. Maybe it's the familiar names on the trucks or maybe it's just the thrill of watching the trucks cut through traffic on the race track. As the Series celebrates "10 Years Tough," it is preparing for its best season to date.

2005 could produce the best shows yet. With a pack of hard-hitting drivers and four determined manufacturers all battling for the checkered flag, driving a truck into Victory Lane in 2005 will not be an easy task.

"I hate to think the Series could be better than that first year," said Skinner, the Series' first champion in 1995. "But there is more competition than there has ever been."

Hornaday agreed: "It looks like if you don't work hard to win a bunch of races or finish in the top three this season, you are going to be out of the points hunt," Hornaday said. "I know I have the equipment to be in the hunt, but it won't be easy.

"Every manufacturer has stepped up to the plate. They have given us great equipment to drive, and NASCAR is doing a good job in getting this series bigger and better," he continued. "All year it is going to be flat out racing.

"It is going to be the guy who has the most luck go his way this year, who has the best pit stops, and keeps his nose clean who is going to win this race, other races and go on to win the championship," Hornaday continued.

b^0x001cYou don't see the Nextel Cup team owners and drivers ignoring the truck races anymore. Everyone is watching them live or has the TV on in their haulers because they are all looking for their next talent, and the trucks definitely put on the best show."

Craftsman, the Official Tools of NASCAR, has sponsored the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since it began in 1995. According to a 2004 EquiTrend survey, Craftsman is rated the No. 1 brand in the nation for overall quality. Over 1600 Craftsman hand tools are made in the USA and guaranteed forever. If any Craftsman hand tool ever fails to give complete satisfaction, return it for free repair or replacement. Sears offers Craftsman tools, merchandise and related services nationwide through its Full-line stores, Sears Hardware stores, Sears Dealer stores and Orchard Supply Hardware stores, as well as through specialty catalogs and online at www.sears.com and www.craftsman.com.

-craftsman-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Mike Skinner , Jimmy Spencer , David Starr , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford