This Week in Ford Racing May 14, 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook ended an 88-race winless streak two weeks ago at Gateway International Raceway, earning the second victory of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career, the seventh for ...
This Week in Ford Racing May 14, 2002
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook ended an 88-race winless streak two weeks ago at Gateway International Raceway, earning the second victory of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career, the seventh for K-Automotive and the first truck series win of 2002 for Ford Racing. The win also vaulted Cook to the 12th position in the driver point standings - currently 122 points out of first - and helped to erase a portion of the 100-point penalty the team received after the season-opening event in Daytona.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
YOU CAPTURED YOUR SECOND CAREER VICTORY IN ST. LOUIS NOT ONLY BATTLING THE 36-TRUCK FIELD, BUT AN ILLNESS AS WELL. HOW IS YOUR CURRENT HEALTH? "I'm feeling much better. I'm at about 85 percent right now and just switched antibiotics, which seems to be helping a little bit. I was diagnosed with a severe sinus infection that was packed in my head and turned into flu-like symptoms. I was a mess, and the antibiotic I was taking before I got to the track at St. Louis helped a little bit, but it never really helped that much. When I went home I stayed on the antibiotic thinking I would continue to get better because it was a 10-day treatment, but it got to a point where I wasn't getting any better, so we finally switched it. At the track I was getting a fever, and it was a bad weekend as far as feeling well, but we were still able to do what we need to do and that's what counts."
HOW HAS THE TEAM REACTED SINCE WINNING ITS FIRST RACE SINCE THE 2000 SEASON? "The team is on a natural high. It's hard to describe it until you win a race, and having sat in Victory Lane once before, it's a momentum builder that you can't describe. It's a feeling that puts everybody on Cloud Nine. I guess a good run, a good, solid top-five does that, but there's nothing like standing in Victory Lane and getting your picture taken with the trophy and the flags; that's the real deal. It builds momentum within the team, where everybody is on a natural high. Everybody believes in themselves and they realize that we can do great pit stops, and the crew chief knows that he can make the right call, and the driver feels he has the ability to race up front each and every week. It just builds momentum through everybody on the team to excel to the next level and to produce and perform like that every week. It's a good feeling to have."
THIS WAS SECOND CAREER WIN IN 122 STARTS IN THE SERIES. DRIVERS SOMETIME SAY THAT IT GETS EASIER TO GET TO VICTORY LANE AFTER THE FIRST WIN. DID YOU FIND THIS TO BE THE CASE? "I think so, to a degree. It's been told me over the years that there are people that know how to win races and there are people who know how to run up front. And it's a big difference between crossing the threshold of just running up front and actually getting to Victory Lane because there's one coveted spot that 36 drivers and teams are going for. When you run in the top five, you're in a group with five other people, but when you're in Victory Lane, you're in a group of one. And, it's hard to be able to get to Victory Lane. Once you get to Victory Lane, it makes it a little bit easier the next time. For me, it was a situation that when I finally got hooked up with Bob and Ron Keselowski, I knew the victory was in sight. I thought that last year we were knocking on the door several times and I thought that we were going to close the deal a couple of times last year, but we were just unable to do it. We knew it coming into this year, and it gave us the confidence and momentum to keep trying, and, fortunately, we got one early in the season, and now it's time to get another."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE TIMING OF THIS WIN? WITH THE STRETCH RUN OF THE SEASON BASICALLY UNDERWAY, CAN YOU RIDE THIS MOMENTUM FURTHER THAN IF YOU WON ONE OF THE FIRST THREE RACES? "I think the timing of the win was more important to the team internally and everybody committed to this program. It's a situation where you promise your sponsor, you promise your engine builder and you promise your body hanger that we're going to get to Victory Lane. Everybody tells you that they believe you will, but it's more of a question of when. You get two or three races into the season, and we've run up front in every single race and we've shown promise to win races, but we haven't closed the deal. To be able to close the deal at Gateway and to be able to go back to your sponsor and your engine builder and say, 'It was thanks to your team effort that we were able to close the deal,' that's a great feeling. It's not a situation at mid-season where we're still saying that we're close to victory, now we've gotten that out of the way and now it's just a matter of winning two, three or more races. Now you don't have to constantly answer the question of when are you going to back to Victory Lane, and now you can answer when you are you going to get back there for multiple wins."
YOU WON YOUR FIRST TRUCK RACE IN YOUR THIRD SEASON ON THE SERIES. NOW IN YOUR SEVENTH SEASON ON THE CIRCUIT, DID YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAD A MONKEY ON YOUR BACK UNTIL YOU GOT THAT NEXT VICTORY? "Well, I did. It was a situation where the team I was with before, we probably struck gold early in my career there with that program. The program, I don't want to say that we weren't ready to win when we won way back in 1998 because we were the best truck that day, but we were probably a team that really wasn't ready to win yet. Typically, you post top-10s and then top-fives, and you do that for a while and then you win. That team there, I think we had one top-10 before we had that win. We went to Victory Lane at Flemington and it was kind of an upset. We beat Ron Hornaday, we beat everybody that day, and I don't want to say that we dominated the race, but we definitely had the fastest truck and won. But again, we weren't really prepared and it showed. We went a couple of more years with that program and struggled to even run in the top 10. It was a situation of getting with Bob and Ron Keselowski, a team that was consistently getting top-fives and top-10s, and it was just a matter of getting the final piece in the puzzle. It was kind of a monkey off my back, knowing that I had the ability to do it, but you start to doubt yourself when you haven't been to Victory Lane for a long time and all anybody wants to talk about is how long it's been since you were in Victory Lane. It's nice to get that monkey off your back and to start focusing on another race win."
THE PAST TWO CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES CHAMPIONS HAVE OVERCOME TRIPLE-DIGIT POINT DEFICITS. WITH THE RECENT STRING OF BACK LUCK BY THE POINTS LEADERS, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "We were sitting in the garage area after Darlington and our heads couldn't have been hung any lower. Having the penalty served to us at Daytona and basically getting last-place points, and then having a truck that could win at Darlington only to come away with a blown motor and a 30-something finish, we basically had two last-place finishes in a row. That wasn't how we imagined the start of our season. At that point in time we decided to change our outlook and said, 'Let the points fall wherever they fall, we're just going to try to win as many races as we can and do whatever we can.' We weren't giving up, but we knew that we had an uphill battle ahead of us. Coming out of Martinsville, we rebounded in points and led a bunch of laps there and got a top-five finish. And to come out of Gateway collecting the maximum number of points, including bonus points, all of a sudden your mindset starts changing again. Yeah, we're going to keeping focusing on winning races, but at least there's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel that we know we still have a shot at the championship. We're only four races into a 22-race schedule, so we know that we have a long way to go and a lot of things can happen. The two top point guys, the 18 and the 1, they had some failures the last couple of races, so two guys that ran one-two in the first and second race are faltering a little bit. It's going to happen. Everybody is going to have their days when they're not going to run quite right or quite good, and hopefully we're in situation right now where we got all of that behind us and we can focus on winning the championship."
IS THERE SOMETHING PARTICULAR ABOUT THE TRUCK SERIES THAT LENDS ITSELF TO HAVING LARGE POINTS SWINGS? "I think a lot of it has to do with momentum. A lot of it, too, has to do with the fact that we're just coming into our stretch of the season. I think where you're going to see the points race decided is the eight-race stretch of races in a row. Once Memphis hits and we race eight weekends in a row, if you get through that eight-race stretch, your championship, as far as I'm concerned, is almost decided. The team that can survive an eight-week stretch of consecutive races and has the equipment, the motors and the ability to turn trucks around in a timely manner, those are the teams that are going to contend for the championship. Right now, everybody is just putting the points in the bank, and the points will be decided in that eight-week stretch."
HOW MUCH MORE DIFFICULT IS IT TO OVERCOME A TRIPLE-DIGIT POINTS DEFICIT THIS YEAR WITH ONLY 22 RACES ON THE SCHEDULE? "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. We've already posted one top-five and won a race and we're sitting 12th in points. The other two races were obviously almost DNFs, so that's not the situation you want, but I'm a typical driver, I want to race 52 weekends out of the year. Hopefully when the schedule comes out next year, we'll be back up to 24 or 26 races and that will make me happy."
YOU MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT TWO WEEKS AGO THAT YOU'RE EXPECTING AN ADDITION TO YOUR FAMILY IN DECEMBER WITH THE BIRTH OF A CHILD. DID THAT NEWS CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK ON RACING OR PUT RACING IN A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE? "Not really. It's a situation where we're very excited and the entire family is very excited about not only having a child but a grandchild, so we're welcoming that with open arms. I'm the kind of person that loves kids and wants to grow up being a granddad with many kids running around the house. I didn't want to wait until my career was over at 45 or 50 to start having kids and this was the perfect scenario for myself and Amy. Of course with her career, we wanted to plan it so that we had the child in the off-season, so everything fell into place. It doesn't really change my outlook on racing at all. I don't want to say that it gives me any more focus or any less focus, it's just a situation where we wanted to start having a family and the time was right. Our priorities will have to shift a bit. It goes from making sure the grass is cut every week, to making sure the grass is cut and the baby is taken care of. I'm sure it will be a little more difficult for us for the first year or two on the road with the baby and the motorcoach. It won't be as easy to pick up and go, but we're prepared for that and it's something we wanted to do, so as far as priorities are concerned, obviously it's family first and we'll always keep it that way. But, I don't think it will change anything as far as the racing outlook is concerned."