Homestead Test notes 2007-01-18
HT Motorsports Turns to Veteran Terry Cook in Quest for First Win *Travis Kvapil Eyes Second Championship In Return To Series *Rick Crawford To Be Inducted Into Mobile (Ala.) Sports Hall Of Fame *Mike Skinner Tops First Day Time ...
HT Motorsports Turns to Veteran Terry Cook in Quest for First Win
*Travis Kvapil Eyes Second Championship In Return To Series
*Rick Crawford To Be Inducted Into Mobile (Ala.) Sports Hall Of Fame
*Mike Skinner Tops First Day Time Charts
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2007) -- Terry Cook (No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota) and his new boss Jim Harris share a mutual respect for each other. They appreciate what the other has accomplished, but far more important, trade the ultimate compliment in motorsports -- the label of 'true racer'.
Harris, the owner of HT Motorsports, has been involved in racing since his younger days as a drag racer. He is much more than a racer, however. Harris has been involved in his family trucking business for 40 years and is an avid golfer. He even takes annual trips to Scotland and Ireland to golf with the same group of friends, but it's not just the actual sport he takes pleasure in.
"I really enjoy the fellowship of golf as much as anything else," Harris said.
It's the same fellowship that drives HT Motorsports.
"I just really like being around the guys," Harris added. "I've got some wonderful people under me."
The team -- one of 29 testing this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- has been involved in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since 2001. Former drivers include Darrell Waltrip, Randy LaJoie, Stacy Compton and Robert Pressley, a group that has put together a good collection of top-five and top-10 finishes, but not a victory for Harris.
Enter Cook, one of the most experienced drivers in the garage.
"I definitely think Terry can win this year," Harris said. "And he thinks the same thing or he wouldn't be here."
"We have to start off with baby steps and understand our goals, which is to be in contention to win every week," Cook said. "It may not happen until the summer, but we are going to go to every track with the intent to win."
Cook ranks third all-time with 240 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career starts and knows his experience will help boost a team that has already shown it can compete. He has six career wins and has taken three different owners to Victory Lane.
"When you've got a veteran driver who has gone through this process before, it helps shorten the learning curve a little bit," Cook said. "That's my job -- to come in here and help with a new set of eyes and new ideas, to help evaluate every step of the way."
That is exactly what Harris was looking for in a new driver. He knows he has a solid foundation in place with support from manufacturer Toyota and crew chief Danny Rollins, who has nine career wins.
"The key is -- you have to have a good manufacturer, a good crew chief and that third part is a good driver," Harris said. "And I think we went out and got the best one available. Terry will absolutely be that third piece of the puzzle that we needed."
And Cook knows he'll have the resources from Harris.
"He's already promised to give us what we need to race competitively week in and week out and that's all you can ask for out of a team owner," Cook said.
Kvapil Among Early Title Favorites ... What do you get when you mix a former series champion with the winningest owner in series history?
"A team that's capable of winning a bunch of races and running for the championship," according to 2003 series champion Travis Kvapil (No. 6 Roush Racing Ford).
Kvapil returns to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2007 after a two-year stint in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Kvapil joins Roush Racing, his third different team -- and manufacturer -- driving the No. 6 truck that Mark Martin steered to six victories last season, a series high. Kvapil knows the expectations are high.
"There aren't a lot of changes on the team apart from me as a driver, so the pressure is on to go out and live up to the mark that Mark set last year," he said. "Everybody at Roush and Ford is gunning for a championship, so it's a big goal."
But pressure is nothing new to Kvapil. He entered the 2003 season finale at Homestead in third place, 34 points behind leader Brendan Gaughan.
"It was really wild, there were four of us only separated by about 40 points and basically we knew for the other drivers to have a shot, Brendan was going to have to have some trouble... and he did," Kvapil said. "It was crazy how that whole weekend turned out with myself, Ted (Musgrave) and Dennis (Setzer) battling it out on the track for the title with a few laps to go. It was one of the hardest races I ever drove in my life. There was a lot on the line."
Kvapil was able to hold off the field and win the championship by nine points. Returning to Homestead-Miami Speedway is always a pleasant experience, for Kvapil can't help but think back to that weekend whenever he visits the track.
"There are always a lot of memories when I come back to Miami," Kvapil said. "We weren't prepared at all (to win the championship), and the banquet was the next day. I remember sitting in the hotel room that night to write my speech and just put some stuff together and we were able to get the rest of the crew guys down here. It was just a lot of fun."
Lone Starr Teammate ... When David Starr (No. 10 International MaxxForce Diesel Ford) got the call from Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/Power Stroke Diesel Ford) informing him of owner Tom Mitchell's decision to hire Starr to drive the newly expanded team's second truck, he knew he was going into a good situation. A phone call with racing legend A.J. Foyt only reassured Starr.
"I talked to A.J. Foyt a week ago and I told him I was going to drive for Tom Mitchell and everything and he said 'It don't get any better than Tom Mitchell,'" Starr said. "'He's not a great guy, he's a super guy.' When that comes from a legend like A.J. Foyt, you know you're dealing with good people."
The move is paying immediate dividends for the entire Circle Bar Racing team.
"You've just seen the evidence of it," said Crawford after reading the Wednesday afternoon time chart. "Both cars were in the top seven and things are working good."
Crawford Elected to Mobile Hall of Fame ... Rick Crawford will be honored along the likes of Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Kenny Stabler when he is formally inducted into the Mobile (Ala.) Sports Hall of Fame on April 19. Crawford will be the 75th athlete to receive the honor, and the first from the world of motorsports. He was selected from a pool of 78 nominees after an overwhelming letter writing campaign from fans along the Gulf Coast.
"I've always been proud to say I'm from Mobile and now being mentioned in the same sentence with my hero Hank Aaron is more than I could ever hope for," Crawford said.
Homestead Test Vital For Early Season Success ... This week's test at Homestead-Miami Speedway will go a long way in helping teams throughout 2007. All four truck models got a makeover in the offseason, including a new nose, and this session will help teams learn how the trucks react on downforce tracks.
"This test is probably one of the best tests we've ever had," said NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton. "The teams will learn enough here to get them through May. They are going to be able to find out so much about how the trucks are going to react to the tires with the aero package. They will take a lot of information back to the shops that can be applied to most tracks we run at."
There is one test left in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- May 10-11 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In the meantime, the 29 teams that tested at Homestead already have a feel for the new truck design.
"We're excited with how the trucks ran yesterday," Auton said of Wednesday's session. "The speeds are very comparable with last year. We worked hard with the teams to get the aerodynamics and the downforce as closely matched as we could so it gives every truck in the garage an opportunity to win races, and ultimately that's what they're all here for."
What: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing
Where: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval
When: Wednesday, Jan. 17 and Thursday, Jan. 18
Times: 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Who: 29 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams including former champions Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Sprague, Travis Kvapil, Ted Musgrave and Todd Bodine.
Willie Allen joins ThorSport Racing
Jess Mattox joins Billy Ballew Motorsports