Trucks Look Forward to Michigan Speeday

Trucks set for high speeds at Michigan DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 14, 1999) Michigan Speedway and the inaugural July 24 200 is certain to put the tough trucks and tough drivers of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in another speed...

Trucks set for high speeds at Michigan

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 14, 1999) Michigan Speedway and the inaugural July 24 200 is certain to put the tough trucks and tough drivers of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in another speed zone. Michigan's speed alluring high-banked 2.0-mile superspeedway begs competitors in any kind of motorsports equipment to go flat-out.

And from the day the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule went public the competitors and their teams have been zeroing in on the chance to challenge one of the fastest ovals in the world.

Mike Wallace has raced eight times at Michigan in NASCAR Winston Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and ARCA stock cars. He's chomping at the bit to mount the high banks in Jim and Marlene Smith's Team ASE Racing Ford.

"These trucks can go race anywhere," said Wallace, who finished fourth at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway earlier this season and runner-up on California Speedway's 2.0-mile oval in 1997.

"This is going to be just like California two years ago," Wallace said. "They said we couldn't race on the big superspeedways. We put on a great show. We need to be on them and we need to go fast. At Michigan a guy might not have a good setup, but he'll still be able to go fast."

The addition to the tour's calendar of California and Texas super tracks two years ago proved to doubters that the cross between NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars and working trucks were up to the challenge of jet airliner takeoff speeds.

The NASCAR Craftsman trucks share the July 23-25 weekend bill with the CART FedEx Championship Series and its U.S. 500 presented by Toyota. The NASCAR trucks then make a return visit to Texas Oct. 15 for a night race on the superspeedway in a weekend doubleheader with the Indy Racing League.

The 1999 campaign winds up at the California in Los Angeles. The three events give the final half of the season a definite high-speed flavor.

By way of comparison to their NASCAR Winston Cup Series brethren, the trucks despite being boxy and hardly as aerodynamically built as stock cars, have the raw horsepower to keep them close in speed on the big courses.

Jay Sauter drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet to the Texas truck Bud Pole this year with a speed just 0.282 mph short of 180. By comparison, Jeremy Mayfield's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Lone Star State single-lap mark is 185.906.

Mike Bliss set the California record of 173.196 two years ago; the same year Greg Sacks posted a 183.753-mph watermark.

"The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series guys are pretty much adjusted to going fast," said Kevin Harvick, driver of Liberty Racing's Porter Cable Power Tools Ford. "The old idea that these trucks will blow over when they go too fast is pretty much out the door."

California native Harvick will be making his first Michigan start of any kind in the race.

He said racing at 180-mph-plus speeds isn't hairy at all. "It's really fun," Harvick said. "Drafting's going to be big at Michigan. The draft is so easy to find in a truck because a truck punches a hole so big it's like going through a tunnel."

Second-year trucker Greg Biffle, chauffeur of Jack Roush's Grainger Ford, came to the tour with primary experience driving late model stock cars on short tracks. He admits he was at first awed by the thought of superspeedway racing.

"Surprisingly I really picked up on it," said Biffle, who went from 22nd at Texas to seventh in California last year. "For a short track background, I've really picked up on the speed."

Biffle said the high speeds actually make the truck handle better.

"You really can feel the aerodynamics kick in," he said. "You don't sense the speed. It's like when you come off an interstate and don't realize how fast you're going on the exit."

Stacy Compton is mounting a serious title challenge this year driving the RC Cola Dodge Ram, a change from the Fords he drove last year. He finished sixth in an ARCA race in 1996, his only Michigan appearance to date.

He said NASCAR took the slow, cautious route to make the trucks fast, stable and raceable at 180 mph.

"They brought it along real nice," Compton said. "The trucks are very comfortable at 180, just as comfortable as they are at 150 or slower. They have the aerodynamics so that they are stable in the wind and the turns.

"But you're not just going fast, you can race people. I expect four- and five-wide on that big straightaway." Compton's best superspeedway finish last year was fifth at Texas. He said the trucks are more than an aerodynamic barge.

"They did a good job with the roof flaps and the cowl flaps," Compton said. "NASCAR has them very stable. These trucks are ready to go anywhere NASCAR competes, anytime they want."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jay Sauter , Mike Wallace , Stacy Compton , Mike Bliss , Jack Roush , Greg Sacks