Hooper hits Ohio high in Dover By Dave Rodman DOVER, Del. (June 2, 2000) You'd have to be a NASCAR Touring Division aficionado to know that Lance Hooper is a former two-time stock car champion. But after qualifying on the front row Friday for...
Hooper hits Ohio high in Dover
By Dave Rodman
DOVER, Del. (June 2, 2000) You'd have to be a NASCAR Touring Division aficionado to know that Lance Hooper is a former two-time stock car champion.
But after qualifying on the front row Friday for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division MBNA Platinum 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway, Hooper, a 33-year-old native of Palmdale, Calif., hopes he won't be a secret much longer.
"I've worked with quite a few race teams in the last three or four years and these guys just work together so good," said Hooper after he turned a 23.282-second lap in the No. 0 Ohio State University Chevrolet. "We've got all the tools we need to have a winning team, we just have to get to these race tracks and get some notes -- learn from our mistakes and be faster and better next time we come back."
Hooper's 154.626-mph lap in the team car that has been plagued this year by eight non-qualifying efforts in the 12 races it's tried to make, was guaranteed to raise a lot of smiles in the Buckeye camp.
"This is a big relief to me," Hooper said on the eve of making his second start in the car owned by a group of Ohio State alumni including former NFL quarterback Mike Tomczak. "It's an opportunity to show my driving ability but also it shows the ability of this young team."
Alumni Motorsports has struggled, to say the least, to find the right combination this season. The team started the season with veteran Shane Hall but failed to qualify for five of the first six races before it skipped Texas Motor Speedway and released Hall as its driver.
Johnny Rumley drove the car at Nashville, where the car made the race in the Bud Pole Qualifying for the second time this season. He failed to qualify at Talladega Superspeedway, however.
Hooper, who won the 1995 Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring championship and the 1996 NASCAR Winston West Series crown before heading east to pursue a NASCAR Winston Cup Series career, had little better luck when he first hooked up with the team.
Hooper failed to qualify at his home state California Speedway and Richmond International Raceway, where he also qualified second for team owner Richard Jackson in a 1998 NASCAR Busch Series event. The team skipped the Busch 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway before Hooper used the data gathered in his first test with the team and qualified in the first round again, in 19th position, for the CarQuest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"Alumni Motorsports has got some funding and a lot of young, hungry workers on the team," Hooper said. "Everyone wants to win and when you get the whole team pulling together like that only good things will come from it."
The biggest factor might be the amount of time Hooper's had to spend with crew chief Mike Steurer. The West Coast pair had collaborated for only two-and-a-half years with owner Ray Claridge at Golden West Motorsports and won Hooper's two championships.
"Ray gave us what we needed to win races and championships and it looks like Alumni Motorsports is going to do the same thing here," Hooper said, favorably comparing his current operation to the others he's competed for in NASCAR's top-three circuits since coming East. "Alumni stacks up with the best of 'em on that count. They've got an awesome engine program with Fischer Engineering, great chassis and body hangers.
"Mike Steurer and I have a history on the West Coast, winning two championships out there. I'm just real happy to be able to drive for Mike again and for Alumni Motorsports. It's a young team and all the owners are young. They're going to be excited and it's going to be great things to come."