Gainesville: Team Haas preview

Gainesville, Fla. - - Jerry Haas, from Fenton, Mo., team owner of Team Haas - - a two-truck Chevy S-10 Pro Stock Truck team - - is ready to return to action after a six-week hiatus between races. His drivers, Charlie Greco, from St. Davids, ...

Gainesville, Fla. - - Jerry Haas, from Fenton, Mo., team owner of Team Haas - - a two-truck Chevy S-10 Pro Stock Truck team - - is ready to return to action after a six-week hiatus between races. His drivers, Charlie Greco, from St. Davids, Penn., just outside Philadelphia, and Matt Rhoades, from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., are looking forward to three races in the next four weeks.

This weekend it's the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, followed March 22-25 by the O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, and ending the weekend of April 5-8 with the SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Throughout his racing career Haas has acted as a mentor for aspiring driving talent. Notable names that have driven Haas-prepared Pro Stock cars and/or trucks in past seasons include Kurt Johnson, Mark Osborne, Brad Jeter, John Nobile, and Billy Huff. Haas has been coming to the Gatornationals since 1973, a fact that gives the renowned chassis builder and former driver an experience edge over most of his competition and should help his two new drivers this season.

"It used to be a greater advantage before we got computers," said Haas, a 13-time Car Craft Magazine All-Star Team recipient for Pro Stock Chassis Builder of the Year. "With the computer technology you have today, you just keep all your data and information from the previous years. You can then match the weather conditions with the track conditions and have an educated guess on how to set and tune the truck. But there are still a few tricks us 'old timers' have that might give us a slight advantage when the time comes to use them. Also, having been in the seat of the truck as a driver, I have a better understanding of what my drivers are saying about each pass."

Rookie Matt Rhoades, 36, began his motorsports career by racing go-karts. That sprung into motocross, which he raced professionally for many years. He then moved to professional Jet Ski racing, retiring at an age when many are just beginning to establish their careers. He then tried circle track racing before finding a home in drag racing.

"Jerry's experience is the main reason I'm here this season. I wanted to learn from the best. I didn't qualify at my first event in Pomona (Calif.), but I learned a lot just watching and listening. I think it will make me a better driver as this season progresses. I know I learned that Pomona was just one race and now I must move on to Gainesville (Fla.) and the Gatornationals because its next on the schedule and all my energies must be directed toward doing my best there," said Rhoades, who moved from the Federal-Mogul ranks in Super Gas to Pro Stock Truck at the beginning of this season.

Greco, 50, Haas' other driver, didn't start a serious racing career until his mid-30s, around 1985, when he began campaigning in Comp Eliminator. His first career win in Comp came at the Keystone Nationals in Reading, Penn., in 1993. He recorded a second national event victory, also in Comp, at the '97 Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J. After sitting out several seasons to oversee his food distribution business, Greco returned to racing last season, this time in Pro Stock Truck. Running as an independent, he competed in nine of the 15 nationals events at which Pro Stock Truck ran.

Joining Haas' operation in 2001 gives Greco an advantage he didn't have this past season. He says, "The biggest reason I moved to Haas' operation was Jerry's experience. With Jerry's package, you get Jerry with his, God knows, how many years of experience. I felt the experience end was where our program lacked last year. To raise the level of our program to where Jerry Haas can take us was a win-win for both."

Both Rhoades and Greco hope to put Haas' experience to good use when qualifying begins for the Pro Stock Trucks on Friday. Final eliminations for all professional classes commence at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Both Team Haas Chevy S-10 trucks are backed by Jerry Haas Race Cars, with associate backing from Ace Clutches, Chevrolet, and G-Force Transmissions.

-Mickey Schultz

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Nobile , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Matt Rhoades , Jerry Haas