MOORESVILLE, NC- (November 5, 2003) - Andy Houston has parlayed a strong five-race late season run in the Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge into a full time ride for the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. The 32 year-old Hickory, NC native has...
MOORESVILLE, NC- (November 5, 2003) - Andy Houston has parlayed a strong five-race late season run in the Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge into a full time ride for the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. The 32 year-old Hickory, NC native has posted five straight top-ten finishes, one top five finish and a pole position at Texas. This opportunity with Ultra Motorsports provides Houston with the type of competitive situation that he has craved since returning from the NASCAR Winston Cup ranks.
"I am very excited," Houston said. "I am excited, relieved, and happy. It is going to be a great opportunity. This is the type of opportunity that I waited years to get and I expect to make the most of it. This Ultra team is a great team and they have proved that in the past. Everyone who has driven the Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge has won races and been in contention to win championships. They have never won a championship with the No. 2 truck and hopefully that is something I can bring to the program. That is what we are going to try to do next year, come out of the box strong and make a run for the championship."
Houston has shown an amazing knack for keeping his equipment in one piece and making the most of any given race. He has amassed 3 wins, 4 poles, 26 top-five finishes and 47 top-ten finishes in 95 career starts. It is this type of dependable performance that helps forge championship efforts.
"I have been close to winning a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship in the past," Houston said. "I finished third in 2000 and I think we can do it here at Ultra Motorsports. Dennis Connor has won championships in the past. It is obvious that he knows what it takes to accomplish those type goals. We have a great bunch of guys that never give up and work really hard. Jim Smith has given this team everything that it needs to perform well and we have great sponsors like Team ASE, CARQUEST and Dodge. That support gives us what we need to run good, be competitive and win races. If you do all that you will be in contention to win the championship. I have a lot of faith in Dennis Connor and I think he has a lot faith in me."
Crew Chief Connor does have faith in his new driver. While Connor was on his way to winning three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championships at Hendrick Motorsports, he watched Houston rack up top finishes on a consistent basis. It is that constant ability to finish at or near the front of the pack that makes Houston a logical choice.
"I am really looking forward to having Andy drive the truck next year," Connor said. "Consistency, I think even more than competitiveness, is the key to winning a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship. It has been that way in the past and I think it is going to be even more that way next season. There is going to be so much competition that it is going to be impossible to be a dominant, race-winning caliber team each week. We need to focus on finishing as well as our preparation will allow us to on that particular day. Back when we won all the championships with the No. 24 truck it seemed every week, week in and week out, it would get close to the end of the race and there was that No. 60 truck with Andy Houston driving it. They just "consisted" us to death basically. I think consistency is going to be the key. Of course we are going to win our share of races but I am not foolish enough or young enough to think that we are going to go out and win them all. Consistency is so important and Andy is exactly the style of driver that can help us accomplish those goals."
Houston is grateful for the six-race stint he has been afforded at the end of the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series campaign. As the season winds down at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend, Houston admits the time spent working together this year should pay huge dividends next season.
"The experience we have had late this year will be a great advantage for us next year," Houston claimed. " There are teams out there that have been together for three or four years that know how to interact and know what they need to be competitive as far as crew chief and driver are concerned. I think that Dennis and I are getting an early start on that right now. I think he has already figured out some of the things that I like as a driver and I have kind of figured out what he expects of a driver as well. I think that by working all winter together and knowing that everything is in place is going to be an advantage for us."
Houston is also chomping at the bit to get a full season in with a championship winning crew chief. He is hoping some of that championship magic will help propel him to his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series crown.
"It is unbelievable to have someone of Dennis's caliber," Houston said. "Someone that has been there before, that has the confidence of knowing that he can do it. We have a lot of guys here that I feel like want to listen to him, learn from him and want his respect. That means a lot in a crew chief's role. I know that I listen to him and I learn a lot from him. Hopefully that will result in a championship run next year in the Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge."