Trucks set for high speeds at Michigan By Marty Smith BROOKLYN, Mich., (July 22, 1999) Ron Hornaday is excited to get a chance to race on Michigan's smooth, fast surface. Couple the high-speed competition at Michigan Speedway with the ...
Trucks set for high speeds at Michigan By Marty Smith
BROOKLYN, Mich., (July 22, 1999) Ron Hornaday is excited to get a chance to race on Michigan's smooth, fast surface. Couple the high-speed competition at Michigan Speedway with the inevitable door-to-door racing of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and you have a rather potent concoction. This weekend, the two collide for the first time ever in the goracing.com 200, and the appeal reaches to drivers, sponsors and fans alike. "This place is awesome," said Ron Hornaday, driver of the No. 16 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet. "It is a smooth surface with only a couple of bumps coming off of Turn 4. It is really fast."
Joe Ruttman, driver of the No. 18 DANA Dodge added, ""It's a big thrill for me to be involved in the first race a Michigan for the Craftsman Truck Series. This is a place that we really need to be racing if for no other reason than all the manufactures that support the series are located just down the road in Detroit."
Speeds at Michigan flirt with the 180 mph barrier, making the two-mile oval similar to Texas, California and Las Vegas. However, Michigan's high-banked corners make it a unique task.
"A lot of people say that is just like California, but it's not," Hornaday said. "The banking here is steeper, so you can drive into the corners deeper than at Fontana."
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races are nearly always determined by horsepower, and this weekend will be no different in that regard. Fuel supply, however, rarely comes into the play the way it will Saturday.
"Drafting will play a huge factor at Michigan, but the track has a wide racing surface capable of two- and three-wide racing," said rookie Scott Hansen, driver of the No. 52 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet. "I think the team that has the best motor package, combined with a driver that knows how to work the draft well, will be the team in victory lane at the end of the day."
Hornaday added, "In the Winston Cup races here it always comes down to fuel mileage, and I think it will for the trucks as well. It is such a wide track, so you have plenty of room to pass. When you have cautions here they are usually because something broke, not because of contact with another vehicle. If you don't have a bunch of cautions, then it's all green flag racing and the draft can either help your fuel mileage or hurt it."
One man that knows all too well the importance of fuel mileage conservation at Michigan is Hansen. In 1994, he was leading an American Speed Association event there when he was forced to pit for fuel in the waning stages of the race. When exiting the pits, he shifted too quickly and broke the rear end shaft, letting a near-certain victory slip from his grip.
"I am really excited about returning to Michigan," Hansen said. "I have been waiting a long time to get another chance to redeem myself there. A driver never forgets about the races they should have won. Since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has never competed at Michigan, I am hoping my past experience will give me an advantage over the other competitors. I have already proven I can lead at Michigan, now I just have to make sure I am leading at the last lap."
Another driver who yearns hold the point when taking the checkered flag is Stacy Compton. Compton began the season with eight consecutive top-four finishes and surged to the top of the series points race, but has struggled of late, finishing 10th or worse in the past three races.
"This team and I are doing everything we need to do to win races and win the championship," Compton said. "We just need to get a little luck on our side. We are quick every week and we run to the front every week, but if luck isn't on your side then it won't be your year. When the luck comes back to us, the rest of these guys better watch out."
"At the beginning of the season we had raised the bar for all of the other teams in the series," said Kevin Cram, Compton's crew chief. "We were getting the great finishes and the rest of the field had to catch up. With a few off weekends, they've gotten closer to the bar that we set. We have also encountered several weather changes over that past few weeks that have made it difficult to set up the truck. The hot weather causes changes in springs and shocks that we're still working with. I guess it's time for us to raise that bar again."
Heading into the race, Jack Sprague leads the points race by 114 points over second-place Greg Biffle, the hottest driver on the circuit. Biffle has won three of the past five races. Dodge drivers Compton and Dennis Setzer rank third and fourth, respectively, in the points race, while Andy Houston is fifth.
"I really like the superspeedways, and working with (truck owner) Bob Keselowski has helped our speedway program," Setzer said. "Bob ran a lot of these larger tracks in the ARCA series and he'll be behind the wheel of a truck at Michigan -- that helped us at Texas and I'm looking forward to it again in Michigan. It would also mean a lot to win the race being so close to Detroit. There will be thousands of Mopar and Dodge employees at the race, and I hope I can give them something to cheer about."
With high speed and door-to-door racing, they should have plenty to cheer about.
Source: NASCAR Online