Trucks have cornered Northwest market

Trucks have cornered Northwest market By Brett Borden NASCAR Online PORTLAND, Ore. (April 20, 2000) NASCAR has three national series. But only one of them covers every corner of the country. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series visits the...

Trucks have cornered Northwest market By Brett Borden NASCAR Online PORTLAND, Ore. (April 20, 2000)

NASCAR has three national series. But only one of them covers every corner of the country.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series visits the Northeast (New Hampshire), the Southeast (Miami), the Southwest (Fontana, Calif.) and, for the first of two times this season, the Northwest (Portland and Seattle). The Line-X 225 runs Saturday at Portland International Raceway.

For a handful of drivers, this trip represents a rare chance to race in front of their core fan base. Stars like Greg Biffle (Vancouver, Wash.), Randy Tolsma (Meridian, Idaho), Jason Roche (Vancouver, Wash) and Dane Pitarresi (West Linn, Oregon) relish the trip back to their old stomping grounds.

The biggest star in that local galaxy is Biffle, winner of nine races last season and defending race winner at Portland -- right across the river from his hometown. He says repeating in front of the home fans will be tough.

"Well, I don't know that we can repeat the win there at PIR," said the driver of the No. 50 Grainger Ford. "There is an awful lot of talent in the series, and we did it, there again, our pit stop strategy put us in the front. We did a one-stop deal in the green-flag race, which cycled us to the front of the field.

"We didn't do a huge amount of passing there. We did pass up from sixth up to the lead, or whatnot, but really there again the pit stops played an important role. People saw us do that last year, and there are 10 other teams that are going to do the same thing we do this year, or follow suit. So it makes it that much tougher to be able to come back.

Passing on a road course like PIR takes special skills. Aside from the road course specialists in the field like Boris Said, there are some veterans who have been on such courses many times before, including one Joe Ruttman.

"Road racing is probably the most fun for the driver," said Ruttman. "It's a deal where if a guy gets you in one corner, you know you may be able to pass him in the next because every one of the turns are traditionally a little different. It just makes for a lot of fun to drive."

Especially when you win. One driver with plenty of wins under his belt is Jack Sprague. Problem is, none of his 16 career wins has come on a road course. He'd like to change that Saturday.

"It'd be nice to add a road course win to the resume. You want to be viewed as a driver who can win anywhere on any kind of track. It's not like we need added incentive, but Team GMAC can do something it's never done before in Portland this weekend: take the checkers for a road-course event. Personally, it would mean a lot to me as a feather-in-the-cap kind of thing for my time in the trucks."

Speaking of feathers, drivers might have to feather the brakes this weekend -- if rain continues to dominate the forecast. If it does rain, Rob Morgan is ready.

"I really like the road courses," said Morgan. "These kinds of tracks are where I began my racing career and I have lots of experience racing at places like Portland. With the weather forecast calling for rain, I know I have one advantage I have raced in it before."

"You have to run a different line in the rain. When the track is dry you want to stay out of the marbles, but in the rain you want to use them to help you turn, it's kind of like running on dirt, you want to slide it through the turns and then get it going again."

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is going again to the great Northwest. And that has the local fans, and drivers, excited.

-nascar.com-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Boris Said , Greg Biffle , Jack Sprague , Joe Ruttman , Randy Tolsma , Rob Morgan