This Week in Ford Racing August 17, 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series "Silly season" is the time of year, usually late in the race season, when driver and team personnel changes take place in abundance. Liberty Racing got an early...
This Week in Ford Racing August 17, 1999
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
"Silly season" is the time of year, usually late in the race season, when driver and team personnel changes take place in abundance. Liberty Racing got an early taste of "silly season" this year when on July 19, 1999, renowned crew chief Roland Wlodyka resigned from the team to move over to Phelon Motorsports and driver Mike Stefanik.
Rodney Haygood assumed the crew chief duties at Liberty Racing and has hit it off well with talented driver Kevin Harvick, #98 Porter-Cable Power Tools Ford. In their first week together, the Harvick-Haygood combination finished 11th at Michigan. At Indianapolis Raceway Park on August 5, Harvick finished an impressive fourth after starting back in 22nd.
As the team heads to Gateway International Raceway this week, Harvick and Haygood are confident of their chances and both driver and crew chief will be welcoming a familiar face back to the track. Rick Carelli, former driver of the #6 RE/MAX International Chevrolet, will make his return to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series by becoming a team consultant with Liberty Racing. Carelli was injured earlier this season at Memphis in a scary crash. Harvick's ties to Carelli go way back as Harvick's father, Mike Harvick was once Carelli's crew chief.
In 1998, Carelli earned his second career win in the inaugural truck race at Gateway and making his successful debut as crew chief for Carelli that race was none other than Rodney Haygood.
KEVIN HARVICK - #98 Porter-Cable Power Tools Ford F-150: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RICK CARELLI COMING ON BOARD? "I've known Rick since I was a kid. My dad used to house his cars at Bakersfield (CA) and with Rodney coming over to be my crew chief, it's a great move for us. I know how much Rick knows about racing a truck and he gets along great with Rodney. The guys on our team thought that it would be a good idea so we'll bring Rick out to the races and let him look over everybody. It's going to be a big help to the whole team."
COMPARE YOUR DRIVING STYLE TO RICK CARELLI'S STYLE. "I watched Rick race a lot through the years and when I first started racing, Rick was my mentor. When I had a question about anything, he'd be the one that I'd ask for advice. I've just grown up watching him race and we do have many of the same driving styles. We both relate a lot of our comforts in the trucks and the heavier vehicles by trying to make them feel like the lighter, smaller cars. That's the biggest thing that we both do."
TAKE US THROUGH A LAP AT GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY. "The biggest deal at Gateway is that Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 are so much different than each other. Rick and I were talking the other night about how turns 3 and 4 are a lot like turns 3 and 4 at Phoenix. So we kind of throw that one away and try to work on turns 1 and 2. It's tough because Gateway has two drastically different ends to track. It really requires a little different setup. I think that we'll really need to get a balance between the two ends. If I had to pick one end to be better on, it would be coming off of turn 2 because you're going so much slower than turns 3 and 4. Turns 1 and 2 are so tight and turns 3 and 4 are so sweeping that you can get away with an ill-handling truck in 3 and 4. Turns 1 and 2 are just so sharp that you have to come off turn 2 well to be able to get down the back straight fast."
RODNEY HAYGOOD, crew chief, #98 Porter-Cable Power Tools Ford F-150: IN YOUR DEBUT AS CREW CHIEF FOR RICK CARELLI, YOU WON THE INAUGURAL NCTS RACE AT GATEWAY LAST YEAR. WHAT IS THE KEY TO GOING FAST THERE? "What I've learned with Kevin (Harvick) that a lot of people might not know is that through his father's association with Rick (Carelli), Kevin grew up watching him race. Kevin has a lot of the same styles and drives a lot like Rick does. I'm trying to adapt the same race strategy that we used last year with Rick to Kevin. Basically that is what we did at IRP last race, was to take what I had known from competing there with Rick and adapt the same setup for Kevin. We'll be going with the same chassis setup style at Gateway. Our key to being successful there last year with Rick was eliminating his bad driving habits. We were good right after unloading the truck. So we're going there this year with the same chassis setups and same shock program. Hopefully we'll be fast right off the bat this year with Kevin too. That doesn't mean that the same setup will work with a Ford but we sure hope it will. Last year, Rick always hated to use a rear sway bar and I don't have a whole lot of knowledge when using a rear sway bar. But we did win last year using a rear sway bar and Gateway was the only place that we used one. Kevin doesn't like to use a rear sway bar either but you can bet that I have one on the truck for him! We'll see if he can adapt to it. If we unload the truck with the bar on it then he'll be just fine. But if we put it on later during practice than we might have a problem with it."
WHAT DOES RICK CARELLI'S PRESENCE MEAN TO YOU AND THE TEAM? "It means a ton to me and the team because the worst situation I've had to deal with in racing happened when Rick got injured this year. The only worse thing to happen to me was when my mother passed away in 1997. That's how important Rick is to me. I've been a crew chief for many years and in all my years of racing that's all I wanted to do. I won five championships with Ford and Doug George. We won three Late Model championships, a Southwest Tour championship and Winston West championship. So we competed against Rick in the Southwest Tour and Winston West. He was always the guy to beat. Out of all the drivers that we competed against, Rick was the only driver who would come over and talk to me even though we were running against him. In 1996, Doug (George) ran the Ortho truck in the truck series and I was his crew chief. It was a tough year because we had two trucks and no motors. Then when my mother passed away, I thought about hanging it up and getting out of racing all together. But Rick called me at home and he wanted me to do weekends with him. I didn't want to be a crew chief anymore. Then I began working with Rick and when George Church was released as crew chief last season, the deal was that I would be Rick's crew chief until the 1998 season ended. But we ended up winning the first one out and won two races out of the next 10. Then Rick got hurt in the 12th race (overall) of me being his crew chief. So to have him back will be just awesome. It's great medicine for him and the team to have him come out to the track. Besides me being his crew chief, we've become the best of friends. Rick coming on board will also build up Kevin's confidence. Kevin is young and he's always had a ton of respect for Rick and he will listen to Rick's advice."
THE TEAM WILL TEST AT GATEWAY ON WEDNESDAY. WHAT TYPE OF THINGS WILL YOU WORK ON? "What we're going to try to do is make the truck turn as well as possible without losing forward bite. That's why we're doing what we're doing with the sway bar. We can always make the truck turn well through the center of the corner, but getting the forward bite off the corner is the problem. It's tough going from one end of the track to the other too because both ends are so different at Gateway. What we might have to do is be really good at one end and make a compromise at the other end."