The Art Schmitt Racing team starting to find their groov in a short amount of time Indianapolis, Ind. (July 28, 2003)-What started out as an idea a few years ago between Nissan and Art Schmitt culminated into reality for the 2003 CORR Lucas Oil...
The Art Schmitt Racing team starting to find their groov in a short amount of time
Indianapolis, Ind. (July 28, 2003)-What started out as an idea a few years ago between Nissan and Art Schmitt culminated into reality for the 2003 CORR Lucas Oil Series. Schmitt and Nissan introduced a three-truck Pro-Lite team for the 2003 season, brining off-road racing veterans Mark Krueger and Joe Wutke III to the Nissan team.
"It's been talked about for a couple of years," noted Schmitt. "Every year it's talked about, and this year it was a reality. We're always planning big things, but it's the added interest of Nissan that we were hoping to be able to debut a (three truck) team."
While Schmitt and his team were putting the final touches on the new three- truck Pro-Lite team, it was announced that Nissan would become the Official Truck of Championship Off Road Racing. With the two moves, Nissan proved that it is moving into the upper echelon of companies committing resources to the development of truck and SUV vehicles. The company already announced plans for its first full-size truck in 2004, the Nissan Titan. The Pathfinder Armada, a full-size SUV will also debut in 2004.
"Everything this year came along so fast," said Schmitt, who had been with Nissan for ten years. "Nissan comes along as the Official Truck, we have a three truck team; it's a lot in a short period of time, but it's good!"
To fill the two open spots for Art Schmitt Racing, he brought in two experienced off-road drivers. Mark Krueger and Joe Wutke III both have previous experience in the Pro-Lite division. Prior to the 2003 season, the three drivers combined for 130 Pro-Lite starts.
Both drivers have a rich history in the sport. In two years, Krueger had 6 victories in 19 starts in the Single Buggy division. In 1999, he won the CORR Single Buggy championship. In 2000, Krueger entered the Pro-Lite division, finishing third with 18 starts and 12 top-five finishes. He picked up his first career Pro-Lite win in 2001 (Round 7 in Bark River).
Krueger was pleasantly surprised when Schmitt asked him to join the team. "I just sold my Pro-Lite team, and was thinking I would race in the Single Buggy division again. When Art called and asked, I said 'yes, when can I start?'". "Sometimes things take time to unfold, but dreams can come true, but it will take a lot of hard work to get there," noted Krueger.
Wutke had a similar reaction when he heard the news as well. "Growing up I was the kid in the stands watching Art compete in buggies and here I am today as his teammate. When Art contacted me back in the winter and offered me this ride to me I was just overwhelmed. Art was a childhood hero of mine, and today I am racing for his team. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that everyone dreams about and today I am living my dream," said Wutke.
Joe's off-road career began in 1990, where he started racing buggies. Wutke made a name for himself in CORR competing in the Super Buggy division. He started 40 races, winning twice. He began his Pro career in 2001, competing in both the Super Buggy and Pro-Lite divisions. In 2002, he had 13 starts in the division with a best finish of 5th (two times).
It was obvious that Schmitt built a team that had experience and success in off-road racing, but it was very important for the teams to mesh.
"In putting this team together for year one, most important was getting a crew that could work together," Schmitt pointed out. "Our biggest thing was trying to get everybody to work together so we can learn from each other to accelerate the program."
Although the Art Schmitt Racing team struggled out of the gates, they are finding their form heading down the stretch of the 2003 CORR Lucas Oil Series season. In a division where 24 drivers have competed, Schmitt, Wutke and Krueger are all in the top-seven heading to Round 9 and 10 next week in Bark River, Michigan.
After an uncharacteristic 17th place finish in the first round, Schmitt moved his way into third place with six consecutive top-five finishes (81 points). Wutke has not finished out of the top-ten, compiling 67 points, giving him sole possession of fifth place. Krueger had two rough starts at Crandon in Rounds 5 and 6, finishing 16th and 10th respectively. The Bark River Off Road Raceway treated his Nissan Frontier to the team's first victory of the 2003 season in Round 8, where he beat Rick Huseman, the current point's leader, who has one of the strongest trucks in the field. A third-place finish in Round 7 helped Krueger move into 7th place, just seven points behind fifth place, who happens to be his teammate, Wutke.
All three drivers and their crews proved they can work together and be successful.
"Art has assembled a great team and we are all becoming a big family that is going to be hard to beat!" said Wutke. "Everyone is watching us, plus we are the first three-truck team in CORR history so people expect us to be successful."
With experienced teammates and the support of Nissan, Art Schmitt and his team are planning on big things. "Having teammates makes you better, because they may have advice in areas that I may need to work on," said Krueger.
Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2003 CORR Lucas Oil Series will return to the Bark River Off-Road Raceway in Bark River, Michigan. For additional information, visit www.corracing.com or www.upoffroad100.com.