Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel Ford, posted his season's-best performance last weekend at IRP, piloting his F-150 to a second-place finish at the .686-mile track. Now, Cook and his crew must turn their attention to Nashville...
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel Ford, posted his season's-best performance last weekend at IRP, piloting his F-150 to a second-place finish at the .686-mile track. Now, Cook and his crew must turn their attention to Nashville Superspeedway as the truck series makes its inaugural visit to the 1.333-mile oval. Cook, a six-year veteran of the Craftsman Truck Series who's last win came at Flemington Speedway on August 8, 1998, was this week's guest on the NASCAR teleconference.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
YOU'RE COMING OFF YOUR BEST FINISH OF THE SEASON. WHAT'S BEEN THE BIGGEST ADJUSTMENT FOR YOU THIS YEAR?
"The biggest adjustment for me this year has been running up every weekend. It's finally nice to be running up front and dealing with all the press and the media after the races. That's been my biggest adjustment, but what a nice adjustment to have."
YOU'RE MARRIED TO AMY EAST, AN ESPN PIT REPORTER. WHAT IS THAT LIKE TO BE AT THE TRACK WORKING TOGETHER EACH WEEK?
"It's actually been quite nice. It's a way for the both of us to spend quality time at the track. On the drive to the track, on the drive home from the track, we just get to spend a lot of good, quality time together. It's nice when your spouse can spend the time that you do. Motorsports is very involved. In order to be at the top of your game in this type of racing, you have to spend 24-7 at it. I mean, every waking moment is devoted towards racing. The only way you can be successful at it is to have someone morally supporting you in that direction. I support her and she supports me, and we're both in to it as much as each other, so it makes for a nice chemistry mix."
A LOT OF PEOPLE WEREN'T EXPECTING YOU TO CONTEND FOR THE WIN AT IRP, LET ALONE RUN UP FRONT.
"We had a great run at IRP. I give credit to the K-Automotive team. Bob and Ron Keselowski are two of the sharpest of the people in the business and I don't think that they get the credit that they deserve. For an operation that has been with the Mopar banner for 30-plus years, and then to switch over to a Ford program this year, we only have three trucks up and running right now. They have access to 11 trucks in our stable, but they have a lot of Mopar sheet metal hanging on those trucks. We just haven't had time to do the proper conversion that we wanted this year, but nevertheless, the three trucks that we have are first-class pieces. From the time that we rolled off the trailer there at IRP to the time the checkered flag dropped, I couldn't ask for a better truck. It was just flawless. We came up a little short there and ran second to Jack Sprague, but it wasn't a disappointing second. It was an on-his-bumper-type race there at the end, and even through the mid-part of the race. I had a great run and never got out of the top five all day."
YOU'RE HIGHLY INVOLVED IN EDUCATION-BASED PROGRAMS IN INDIANAPOLIS, GOING TO SCHOOLS AND READING TO STUDENTS. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THAT?
"That was huge. That was something that my public relations department asked me about back in February at Daytona if I would be interested in doing. I said, 'Absolutely.' I like to give back to the community, the people, the fans that support us, and I really like to give back to the kids. The kids are the up-and-coming race fans. They are our generation tomorrow. These are the people that will be running the country tomorrow. Some day when I'm sitting in a wheelchair in a retirement home, these are the people that are going to be deciding whether I have Social Security income or not. We need to take care of them. I think that our foundation for tomorrow is all built off kids. We need to teach them good values, and I figured it was time to do my fair share and my part, and we went to the library and read to the kids and had a lot of fun. I got to intermix with them and they got to come out and see the show truck that we had out there. I explained a lot about motorsports and what we do, and just gave the kids ideas and hopefully opened up their eyes to a bigger and brighter future, so that they realize that they can become a fireman, a policeman, a race car driver, a NASCAR public relations director. They can become anybody that they want to be and nobody is ever going to hold them back."
TURNING TOWARDS NASHVILLE, YOU AND K-AUTOMOTIVE BOTH HAVE GOOD TRACK RECORDS THERE, BUT THIS RACE WILL BE HELD AT THE NEW TRACK.
"Basically, everything we've done in the past can be thrown out the window. The only thing we can use from the past is directions and how we get to the hotel and restaurants downtown. That's about the only thing we can relay over from past experiences at Nashville to what we're doing this year. It's going to such a different animal. I watched the Busch race there and they tore up a lot of equipment there, and hopefully, the trucks don't have those types of problems with the racing surface that I've seen in the past. One of the things that I'm excited to get to, Ford got a new rule concession and it went into effect at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and that was a two-inch further out lower-front valence. I didn't think it would make much of a difference at the short track, and it did seem to but what we're really excited about is when we go to Nashville. We're really excited for what we're looking for there, and actually, two of our trucks were loaded after IRP, went back to the shop in Detroit, Michigan, had general maintenance on them Sunday morning and then the team loaded them both back up and left Sunday night for the wind tunnel in Lockheed, Georgia. Actually, the Lockheed Wind Tunnel in Marietta, Georgia. We wind tunneled two of the trucks and they're leaving from there going directly to Nashville. With the new rule change, we needed to find out where we were with the balance of truck overall, and then with the help and support of Ford Racing, we're getting that and hopefully when we get into Nashville, we'll have a really nice, aerodynamically-balanced tuck."
THIS IS THE SECOND NEW TRACK FOR THE TRUCK SERIES THIS YEAR. DO YOU NK THITHAT BEING A VETERAN HELPS YOU ADAPT QUICKER?
"Yes, I definitely look forward to going to new tracks. It's kind of funny that you mention that. Being a veteran of the sport, I actually enjoy going to new tracks, but I don't enjoy giving everybody else eight hours of practice to get caught up to the veterans. We go to these new tracks, but if it was up to me, we would just go and do a regular show there - a practice/qualifying day, do a Happy Hour and let's go race - as opposed to eight hours of open practice. Eight hours of open practice is, maybe, a little overkill for the Craftsman Truck Series. I know that our testing policy is quite different from Busch Series and Winston Cup, and this is the only testing that we get to do per year, per se on a track that's on the NASCAR schedule. I think that eight hours is more than enough; they could cut those down to three-and-a-half to four hours and it would still be more than enough. The problem with eight hours is it gives us a chance to do too much stuff, and usually what happens is you unload pretty good and you end up dialing your truck right out of the ballpark, where you're running slower than you were when you unloaded, but hopefully that won't happen to us at Nashville."
DO YOU JUST OUTTHINK YOURSELF?
"I think so. You just end up with too much on-track time. You're putting a lot of wear and tear on your motor and your tire bill is high because you're putting new tires on the whole time. It's a lot of added expense that you normally wouldn't incur. I think if we can cut the testing policy in half, and go down to a two-and-a-half, three-hour test as opposed to an eight-hour test, the dollars that we would spend on that day would almost be cut in half, and I think it would be a better justice to the truck series."
WHAT BEEN THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE FOR YOU THIS YEAR, GETTING MARRIED OR JOINING A NEW TEAM?
"Both. It really is. The moral support that I get from Amy each and every week, and the fact that I've got a new team that gives me a lot of moral support each and every week. The biggest thing is that the team is giving me the equipment almost every weekend to run up front. We've had some problems this year with a couple of motor failures; things happen. Look at Jack Sprague. You can have the best team in the business, and put the best motors under the hood, but eventually something happens and unfortunately that's happened to our team. It bit us a couple, two or three times this year. Hopefully, we're over that hill and Ernie Elliott has been giving us great motors the past couple of weeks, so we can take those and run up front and finally get our first win. I can't think of a better place to get it than right there at Nashville."
YOU'RE SITTING IN SEVENTH PLACE ONLY 208 POINTS BEHIND JACK SPRAGUE. WITH NINE RACES LEFT, THAT DOESN'T SEEM THAT FAR BACK IF SOMEONE SLIPS UP.
"That's absolutely correct. Nine races is a long way to go. You know, we run on short tracks, two-mile speedways, mile tracks, we run the mile-track road course there at Nazareth coming up, so there are a lot of chances for either somebody to capitalize and have some good fortune, or for somebody to have some bad luck. It's going to take, honestly, it's going to take some bad luck on the top three or four competitors for us to even have a shot a winning the 2001 Craftsman Truck Series championship. I can't write the storybook. If I had a crystal ball and could predict the future, I probably wouldn't be in motorsports. You can only be in control of your own destiny of your own team, and that's to make sure you race vehicle is prepared to the best of its ability each and every week. When the race time comes around, put the luck in your hands and hopefully have a good race. You never wish bad luck on anybody, but like I said, it would take a little bad luck on the guys in front of us to really have a shot at winning the championship."
IS CONSISTENCY GOING TO BE THE KEY?
"It really is. And that's why the NASCAR Touring Series, the major divisions, the Busch Grand National, Winston Cup and Truck divisions are all three the same. We all earn the same amount of points per race and per position, leading laps and leading the most laps and etcetera, and it's all built off of consistency. Theoretically, you wouldn't have to win a race all year long and you could still win the Truck Series championship, just if you were in the top five each and every week. It's just a situation where you need to be consistent, and a case in point is Ted Musgrave. The guy has won more races than anybody and is in sixth place in points, and if with a little bit of luck this weekend, I think I can overhaul him for sixth. You just have to be consistent week-in and week-out."