Gainesville Pro Stock Truck Perfect Fit for Osborne

NHRA PRO STOCK TRUCK COMPETITION A PERFECT FIT FOR OSBORNE GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For a good old country boy from southwest Virginia, there's nothing quite like a takin' a drive on the backwoods roads in his trusty pickup truck. Feeling...

NHRA PRO STOCK TRUCK COMPETITION A PERFECT FIT FOR OSBORNE GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For a good old country boy from southwest Virginia, there's nothing quite like a takin' a drive on the backwoods roads in his trusty pickup truck. Feeling that tailgate flappin' in the wind has the power to set the mind free.

Mark Osborne, a lifetime resident of Abingdon, Va., feels like he's been set free. The veteran Pro Stock competitor is the newest 'rookie' in NHRA Pro Stock Truck competition, driving one of two team trucks for Kentucky-based Kessinger Motorsports in 1999.

Osborne, who'd rather spend his free time fishing, taking a ride on his jet ski or coaching 10-year-old son Zachary in a developing motocross career, can finally relax and enjoy his other interests thanks to his decision. After finishing a career-best fifth in the Winston Pro Stock standings in 1998, Osborne took the high road to a stress-free life.

Osborne, 38, will be one of the top contenders for a Pro Stock Truck victory at the 30th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 18-21 at historic Gainesville Raceway. The $2.1 million race is the second of 14 events for Pro Stock Trucks in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. It is the first time Pro Stock Trucks have been featured as part of the professional category lineup at the Gatornationals.

"I love it," said Osborne, a three-time Pro Stock winner, including his all-star victory at last season's Winston Invitational at Rockingham, N.C. "I think we had a good debut at Pomona but just fell victim to mechanical woes. We need to get a couple of wins and get some momentum going and we'll be fine."

Osborne, who drives a Chevrolet S-10 with sponsorship from Hernando, Miss.-based RCL Components, says the transition to the new category has been smooth.

"The truck is a little slower, but it's still a rush," Osborne said. "It's plenty of power, that's for sure. The competition is generally the same. You have about six to eight drivers who you're really worried about. There's some drivers who cut really good lights, so you have to go to the starting line prepared to get a good start. On Sunday, any of the 16 trucks have a shot to win. You can't take anything for granted. So far, it's been a lot of fun."

As opposed to his Pro Stock pursuits over the last few seasons. With more competitors entering the category, Osborne found a stress-filled world of trying to out-qualify 50 cars for one of 16 spots at nearly every event. All the travel associated with competing and testing finally took its toll on a man who values time spent with family and friends.

Being involved in Pro Stock Truck gives him the best of both worlds.

"I really like the entire program -- it's a nice fit for me," Osborne said. "It's just enough races where I can be involved in the competition and still have time to devote to my family. My son is getting involved in motocross right now and I'm glad that I can attend a lot of his races. I enjoy being involved with Chevrolet and the programs that GM has put together."

Now Osborne feels a different kind of stress when he's behind the wheel of his S-10. With his success in Pro Stock, he feels like a marked man in Pro Stock Truck.

"There's pressure on me now, but it's not as heavy as was the case in Pro Stock," Osborne said. "Sometimes it's a good feeling. I think everyone is gunning for me when they run against me, just to say they beat someone who used to race Pro Stock. There's a lot of high expectations for me to do well in this category because of my past. It makes it sort of tough when you go from being the underdog to being one of the top dogs. You really have to adjust your approach to the competition."

With teammate Tim Freeman, from Roan Mountain, Tenn., Osborne feels comfortable about the team's chances for success. He says both drivers have a shot at winning the championship. And while they share information, there's no pre-determined winners if the two meet in eliminations.

Osborne says both team trucks will have a shot at setting a national record at Gainesville.

"I'm sure national records will fall at Gainesville," Osborne said. "The conditions there are usually pretty good and the elapsed time record will drop and I'd say the speed record will be reset too. There's about eight drivers who could get the ET record. We've run a 7.53 in testing and felt like there was a little left over."

Osborne had clutch problems at the season-opener at Pomona Raceway and lost in the second round. He says drag racing's basic rules still apply here. In order to win there has to be a good mix of consistent tuning, driving skill and some good luck.

"You have to keep a good, consistent truck if you're going to win," Osborne said. "That's what it takes. You have to qualify in one of the top four spots and focus on getting good lights. We were a little disappointed in our debut at Pomona. We're getting a new motor and should be ready to do a lot better at the Gatornationals. I'm looking forward to it."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tim Freeman