Hines Spends His Off Weekends Racing; Finds Success in USAC Open Wheels and Looks Forward to First Busch Series Attempt at Texas Sandusky, OH - While the NASCAR Truck Series has been dormant since the Easy Care 200 at Atlanta in ...
Hines Spends His Off Weekends Racing; Finds Success in USAC Open Wheels and Looks Forward to First Busch Series Attempt at Texas
Sandusky, OH - While the NASCAR Truck Series has been dormant since the Easy Care 200 at Atlanta in mid-March, Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Tracy Hines has been one of the busiest racecar drivers in the country. He spent the last two weekends doing what has made him one of the most known names in American short track racing: racing with the best of the best in USAC Silver Crown, Sprint car, and Midget car competition.
For Hines, every opportunity to sit in a racecar serves two purposes. The first is the chance to feed the competitive urge every driver has, which is to go out and try your hardest to win races. Secondarily, while the open wheel cars are vastly different than the NASCAR machines Hines will drive in 2004, every time he straps into any racecar is a chance to learn more about the racetracks and how to drive them, which does transfer over to various racing vehicles.
"We had a good weekend out in Phoenix," Hines said of his four top-5 finishes in four attempts two weekends ago. "We are going to run all of the pavement races in the Midget car, and we have the owner second in the points right now. We want to go out and win our share of races and keep them up in the points, that is our main focus.
"With the Silver Crown car, we have always run well at Phoenix," Hines continued. "We finished second out there last year, so we expected we would go back and have a good chance at running well."
Hines capitalized on the opportunity to learn more about the Phoenix track, which may help him down the road when the Truck Series comes to the Desert Mile in early November.
"That was the second time I had a chance to run on the new configuration at Phoenix," Hines said. "Since we were there last, they have done some repaving in some areas, so it is pretty helpful to get those laps on the speedway there to see how that new asphalt will react during a race. Even though the Silver Crown and Midget cars are so different from the Truck, it is a big advantage to have."
Hines proved his versatility that weekend by finishing second and third in two nights of competition on the dirt at the nearby Manzanita Speedway.
"We run that car out on the West coast for some fun," Hines said. "It sure makes everyone happy when you go out and have fun and run as well as we did."
Last weekend, Hines competed in the USAC Mopar Twin 25s at Irwindale Speedway. Any driver that can win both halves of the unique doubleheader takes home a $50,000 bonus. While Hines was not in contention to collect the big bonus, he did rack up two more top-10 finishes, and solidified his standing in the USAC Midget points.
The next challenge Hines faces is his first attempt in a NASCAR Busch Series car, this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Hines will attempt to qualify Tommy Baldwin's No. 6 "Hungry Drivers" car at a track that was kind to him in his first Truck Series attempt last fall.
"We ran the Truck race there last year and qualified fourth," Hines said. "We had a good race and finished 11th. Now, I know the Busch cars are a totally different beast than the Truck, but I think we'll have a pretty solid chance down there. The biggest issue is going to be qualifying. Those fields are so tight that thousandths of a second can make a very big difference. But if we can get a good qualifying spot, I think we can have a really good race. It's going to be the first time I have ever been in a Busch car, so I am looking forward to it."
Hines and the No. 88 Menards Chevrolet will spend a couple of days testing for the upcoming Truck race at Martinsville in the coming weeks as well. The team's shop is located across the street from Sandusky Speedway, and while the track is not identical to Martinsville, it shares several common characteristics the team has used in the past to prepare for the paperclip-shaped Virginia track.
"It has long straightaways and tight turns," Hines said. "It is slippery with very little banking, just like Martinsville. We will use the opportunity to try some chassis things and hunt for the right setup, but it will be a good chance to make sure things like the brakes and coolers are working right too. It's the same truck we are planning to run at Mansfield in May, so we want to make sure the bugs are worked out of it."