Topeka: Rick Jones Pro Stock Truck preview

TOPEKA, Kan. (September 20, 2000) - With just four races left on the 14-event NHRA Pro Stock Truck tour, Rick Jones is ready to shift his Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC Sonoma into high gear for a late-season push towards a top-10 finish.

TOPEKA, Kan. (September 20, 2000) - With just four races left on the 14-event NHRA Pro Stock Truck tour, Rick Jones is ready to shift his Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC Sonoma into high gear for a late-season push towards a top-10 finish.

Currently seventh in the points standings, Y2K has been a good year for Jones. Prior to the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis he had qualified for every race. At five events Jones successfully advanced into the second round of eliminations, and at Atlanta, the Galesburg, Ill., chassis builder made a visit to the semifinals before losing to Randy Daniels. Jones' accomplishments on the racetrack have been good for a place in the top-10 of the points standings throughout 2000 and where he's hoping to be when the season concludes in Pomona.

The 12th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka on September 28 - October 1, is the 11th race on the NHRA Pro Stock Truck tour. NHRA Heat can be seen on ESPN2 on Thursday, September 28, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Television coverage of final eliminations can be seen on TNN on Sunday, October 1, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

How has the season gone so far? "All in all it's been a good year for the Country Motors Trailers Sales Sonoma, and I'm happy with our performance up to this point. We ran into a little stumbling block at Indy, but I think we now have that figured out. At Indy we were just trying to qualify because last year we didn't, but it was one of those races where we had too much time to think about what we were doing. That's a problem you have when you have that much time off between races - you have a tendency to change too many things on the truck and unfortunately that's what we did. We thought we were fast when we went there to test, but obviously we weren't fast enough. We tested for two days and thought we were okay. We just weren't as fast as we should've been. And then when we got to Indy that problem was compounded with some very strange weather conditions. We had a high amount of moisture in the air, and I really missed the tune-up on the engine. In the Saturday morning session we were No. 3 at 60-feet and No. 4 to the 330. But we didn't have the right tune-up on the engine and fell off to about 17th in speed."

Your goal was to qualify at every event and you were well on your way. How big of a disappointment was the DNQ at Indy? "I don't look at it as a disappointment. There are two ways to approach racing in general, one with a positive outlook and the other from a negative viewpoint. If you're negative about it then it makes it too easy to quit. We like to take the positive approach, and at Indy we got a lot of good notes on the racetrack and a lot of information on how to tune in weather conditions like that. We learned what not to do. We made too many changes, but I wasn't the only one. Jeff Gracia and Brian Self were two other good drivers that didn't make it in. We usually don't just miss it like that. We took three days and went over to Cordova, made quite a few runs and got the truck back to our normal setup. I think we're where we need to be now. Instead of being negative about it we're focussed on not letting it happen again. That's the thing about racing, hindsight's 20-20, and we can look back on a number of things we should've done but didn't."

Your Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC is currently a top-10 truck. Can you explain the effort that has gone into getting you this far? "Don Peden of Country Motors Trailer is one of the reasons. Without his help this year I wouldn't be racing. I also have to thank Fred Simmonds, Alba Colon and Harry Turner from GM. I feel very lucky to have the factory support of GMC. Also my crew, Charles Burnett, Paul Yates, my wife Bonnie and son Rickie. Bonnie's at the shop every day and has been behind me the whole way. The guys at the shop work non-stop to get the job done, and with the new Reher-Morrison engine that we're using this year, David's (Reher) done a fantastic job getting us good power. We only have one engine so we don't usually get to test a lot. We did before Indy and I have since we left Indy. But I have a lot of experience over the years working with customers and I try to get the most out of the truck that I can. We just make sure every inch is as perfect as it can be. Aero-wise we work hard on the package to try and make improvements. Since I'm not an engine builder I can't work on the engine all the time, so we work on the truck and try to make improvements there."

How did your test session go at Cordova? "We tested there last Friday, Saturday and Sunday and struggled for the first couple of days. But we put everything back to where we were at the beginning of the year and found our problem. I think we'll be okay for Topeka."

What were some of the areas you concentrated on in testing? "Chassis setups, four-link changes, shocks and clutches. To run good down low, and run those 1.05 60-foot times and those 3.06 and 3.08 times to the 330, you've got to have a good tune up chassis-wise, and you have to have a good clutch tune up. Horsepower will help you from the 330 on to get in the show, but to go really fast and put yourself at the top of the page you've got to make a good hit down low."

What's your strategy heading into Topeka? "Topeka's a pretty nice racetrack, but the problem there is that you have a lot of altitude and the air is hardly ever any good. Last year the track was very good during some of the qualifying sessions, but the air still wasn't that good because of the altitude. The performance will be determined by the temperature. If it's warm it will create a tuning problem because there's no air and the racetrack can be good. A good racetrack with no air can cause problems. That's basically what we had at Indy. The starting line was better than what people gave it credit for, but we had no air and a lot of people struggled. We'll ready for it either way. I've learned a lot on what to do and what not to do. Our eyes will be wide open at Topeka and hopefully we'll be ready this time."

After Topeka there's just a handful of races left. What are your goals for the remainder of the season? "We just want to go and make good runs, try to qualify at the last four events, stay in the top 10 and maybe win a race. We have Mike Coughlin and John Lingenfelter nipping at our heels points-wise and we need to keep our momentum up so that we can stay in the top 10. That's very important to us, but we'll do the best that we can and see how it turns out. A lot of times this class is only four or five hundredths of a second apart from No. 1 to No. 16. It's very, very tight. I can't tell you how hard it is to find that extra hundredth of a second to get qualified or move up to that next spot. It's a lot like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , Brian Self