Friday, June 16, 2000

First practice laps yield positive evaluations


Speedway Notebook

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPARTA, Ky. — Steve Grissom, a NASCAR Winston Cup driver from 1994-99, was the first Craftsman Truck driver to take practice laps here Thursday.

        “This is a first-class facility,” Grissom said. “There's a lot of banking coming off Turn Four, which makes for a good place to pass when you're coming for the checkered flag.”

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        The first crash was by a driver named Doug George, who spun and hit the wall coming out of Turn Two. He was not seriously hurt.

        George is usually the crew chief on the No.12 Hot Wheels Dodge truck, but he is replacing regular driver Carlos Contreras (injured) this weekend.

        George said the newly re-paved speedway was not to blame for his crash.

        “It was one of those deals where maybe we didn't have the right set-up,” George said. “... It is a beautiful facility. It's cool.”

        THUMBS UP: Drivers generally approved of the new 1.5-mile facility.

        “The race track is beautiful in terms of the surface, the smoothness of it and the race-ability of it,” said Mike Wallace, brother of Winston Cup star Rusty Wallace.

        Some predicted free-for-all racing on the 70-foot wide track.

        “I think you'll see some good five- and six-wide racing, because this is as wide a place as we race at,” driver Marty Houston said.

        Other drivers, including 2000 points leader Greg Biffle, couldn't quite find the handle during practice. Others said their tires weren't handling well. But most said the track appeared smooth after its re-paving.

        “We didn't test here (before now), so we are a full second off of where we want to be,” Biffle said. “But we'll get it.”

        SPEED CHART: Joe Ruttman led the speed chart for most of the day, going 165.304 mph. He was followed by Kurt Busch (165.198), Bryan Reffner (164.469), defending series champ Jack Sprague (164.194) and 2000 points leader Biffle (163.969).

        LOCAL OWNER: David Hodson, a native of Hillsboro, Ohio, is the owner of three trucks for Saturday's race.

        Hodson's top driver is Randy Tolsma, who stands No.9 in the Truck season points race. He also owns the trucks of Scott Riggs and Contreras.

        Hodson, a graduate of Hillsboro High, has a degree from Miami University and a master's from the University of Dayton.

        LOCAL DRIVERS: There are no Tristate drivers in the truck race. But there there are two local drivers entered in the Slim Jim race tonight.

        Blue Ash native Jeff Fultz, 30, stands third in the Slim Jim season points race. Fultz now lives in Mooresville, N.C.

        Hyde Park resident Matt “Spanks” Overbeck, 24, is running his first Slim Jim race of the season. He's eighth in the Kendall Indiana late-model season race.

        WEATHER OR NOT: NASCAR will make the call on any rain delays and contingency plans.

        Forecasts the next two days call for scattered storms in the area, with temperatures in the 70s for the night races.

        Kevin Triplett, NASCAR director of operations, will be the ranking official in town this weekend.

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