Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday November 15, 2012
When you think of the Truck Series and the teams involved, Red Horse Racing is likely one of the names that comes to mind. Having been a part of the series since 2005, they’ve steadily made their presence known, but everything changed this year. Coming into the 2012 season, RHR boasted five victories, 46 top 5s and 99 top-10 finishes, but with just one race left in the year, they’ve added five more wins, 22 top 5s and 31 top 10s in just a single season. So how did the team get to where it is today? To find the answer, we’ll start the very beginning.
Red Horse Racing actually began as Clean Line Motorsports, owned by Daniel Whitt, back in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2005 that RHR owners Tom DeLoach and Jeff Hammond (yes…that Jeff Hammond) bought into the team and changed the name. For that season, the single truck team kept Brandon Whitt behind the wheel and earned their first win at Memphis Motorsports Park in spectacular fashion, defeating veteran Ron Hornaday, Jr. with a last lap pass to take the victory. By the end of the year, DeLoach and Hammond purchased the remaining assets of the team and put David Starr behind the wheel of the No. 11 truck where he grabbed the team’s second victory at Martinsville.
It was until 2009 when RHR expanded to a two-truck organization with reigning champion Johnny Benson and T.J. Bell, but sponsorship woes saw them shut down Benson’s team in June. Just days after the champion’s release, Timothy Peters brought sponsorship with him in the form of Strutmasters.com to finish out the season. The following year, Justin Lofton joined to serve as teammate to Peters, and Brazilian rookies Miguel Paludo and Nelson Piquet, Jr. each made their debuts with the team in a third truck fielded for three events. Paludo remained with the organization full time in 2011 while Piquet, Jr. headed over the KHI.
The 2012 season brought a whole new world for RHR—they expanded to a three truck organization and entered into an agreement to use Joe Gibbs Racing engines. Along with the engine program came a technical alliance that team owner Tom DeLoach hoped would be beneficial to both parties.
“We are thrilled to announce we are making the move to use Joe Gibbs Racing engines and receive technical support from such an outstanding organization. JGR has established themselves as the leading Toyota team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series,” DeLoach said of the agreement. “As we look toward our new relationship in 2012, our goal is for Red Horse Racing to put Joe Gibbs Racing engines in victory lane for the first time in the Truck Series and to compete for the 2012 Truck Series championship. we are very excited about this opportunity to grow Red Horse Racing and we feel that this new technical and engine relationship combined with the people we have in place is the combination we’ve been looking for.”
Fast forward to today and RHR has a decent shot at achieving both of those goals outlined last December. After snagging a win in the season opener with virtual unknown rookie John King, RHR has visited victory lane four more times with three other competitors—all of those that have driven for the team this season, in fact. RHR also has a shot to grab their first championship with Timothy Peters sitting just 11 markers behind leader James Buescher heading into a track that Buescher has found very little success at. In fact, when I spoke to Parker Kligerman, who joined mid-season after being released from Brad Keselowski Racing in favor of Ryan Blaney, he praised JGR’s engine program.
“I don’t like to say there’s a power difference [when it comes to the JGR engine program.] I think it’s about the motor being better, it’s about the program, it’s about the dedication to improving. I think one of the biggest things you see with JGR motors is that this is their first foray in the Trucks,” he said. “What they’ve shown us is a huge concentrated effort to prove themselves. In doing so, they have a constant effort to improve their engines and find little things here and there and we see that week in and week out in our performance on the race track.
“And that’s all you can hope for in an engine manufacturer. You don’t want to just have the best engine manufacturer out there to start the season saying ‘oh we’re the best’ and never try to improve because eventually you won’t be the best,” he continued. “We may not be the best all the time, but we’re always trying to be that. That’s a testament to them and their hard work and I think it’s one of the things that excites me about their program—even if they’re not the best, they’re working to be the best.”
And his teammate echoed those sentiments when asked about the JGR engine program.
“That’s been phenomenal. Attention to detail has been the biggest part. It has been a night and day difference [since adding the JGR motors to the team]. I’ve really enjoyed working the Gibbs group, and I’ve really enjoyed driving these Tundras with the Gibbs horsepower under the hood,” Peters said. “I think there might be a little bit of data that we share back and forth, but for the most part, everything outside of there is in house.”
But what’s the real secret behind the organization’s success? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get slightly different answers, however both Kligerman and Peters agree it has plenty to do with the people they have in place.
“I think the biggest thing about Red Horse Racing is that the success we’ve found so quickly with the 17 (Peters) and myself coming in halfway through the season is really a product of the people in the organization,” Kligerman said. “In my belief, racing is so close right now in terms of the equipment level everyone has that the difference is really the people. You hope to have the right people and with the right amount of funding you find that success. It’s one of the more professional teams in the garage in my opinion and definitely shows in our professionalism on the race track and also our success.”
And Kligerman is a driver that understands the importance of that professionalism and teamwork on the track. Ever since he joined the organization, he’d been right on the cusp of victory lane only to have something happen that prevented the victory, and it looked like he’d once again
“When you’re able to come back from adversity, that’s the measure of a team. that’s how you really measure how you are as a group. Being able to come back from the battery issue and all the other issues we had at Talladega just to get to victory lane is just another testament to that and it’s also something we show week in and week out in being able to run up front and being able to overcome any little bit of adversity that you can have each week. At the end of the day, if we do have the issues, we have the confidence in each other and hopefully they have the confidence in me to go out and fix those issues and get the best result possible.”
But it’s not just those people in place and their ability to bounce back almost instantly from nearly any problem that’s thrown at them that has helped make RHR what it is today. In fact, DeLoach can thank his hands-on approach in the day to day operations of the team itself too.
“It’s really important. From an employee stand point, that’s huge because you have an owner that cares,” Peters said last week. “Tom is an outstanding guy, he’s been in this garage 2005 and that means a lot when you see an owner that’s there and cares about his family.”
And though he’s only been with the team for a portion of this season, Kligerman spoke highly of DeLoach as well.
“I’ve been a part of Penske Racing, which is a large Cup organization and Roger Penske is obviously one of the most influential men in America and was definitely hands on—not so much in the day to day operations but definitely hands on in terms of the major decisions of the race team,” Kligerman continued. “Here you find that Tom is a lot more hands on in the day to day operations, which I think in some respects is a little better for a truck team because it’s a lot smaller. The personnel amount is a lot less and it makes it a lot more personal. I think that’s something that adds to the effect of having great people is knowing you’ve got a team owner that’s there at all times.”
And though he’s new to the team this season, his perspective is very similar to that of Peters, who has been with the organization since mid-2009, and has watched it grow from a single truck operation to the three truck program it is today.
“It’s been just a fabulous team to be associated with. Every year we get stronger, you see the progress from year to year, and our results show on the race track with the (No.) 17 truck as well as the other trucks involved with the (No.) 7 and (No.) 11,” Peters said. “It’s cool to be part of a team that has grown the way it has over the last couple of the years and the success that we’ve found across the board.
“It’s just hard work and determination [that has helped the team grow]. The guys that are a part of Red Horse Racing and even the owner Tom DeLoach is dedicated,” he continued. “Everyone is family; there’s no discrepancy between any of us that disrupts activity and productivity. When we get close every year, it makes you want more, and that’s what we’ve done every year is that we’ve been oh so close and we just go to work even harder to get the result even better. It paid off.”
That statement is very clear if you look at the success the team has found this year. Despite the bad luck that has plagued Todd Bodine’s No. 11 team for much of the season, he does the early season victory at Dover and can at least hold on to the fact that though he’s excelled much more this year than the results in the record books show. But what’s the big difference between this year other those in the past?
“I don’t think this year is any different than any other year. It’s just that you learn a lot as you go throughout the year, and at the end of the year, you try to implement a lot of those things. Last year after Homestead, Butch Hylton, my crew chief, wanted to do a lot of things that we implemented as far as improving chassis and improving bodies. You always have to think outside the box,” Peters said. “Toyota is a big part of our resources being our manufacturer and a great company to be involved with. Everybody has done their part and put their dedication and two cents in, and we’ve incorporated it all and every little piece of the puzzle made a difference at the end. I think that’s been the biggest part.”
In the end, if Peters doesn’t manage to overcome his deficit to earn the championship, will he look for greener pastures or stick the team that has stood behind him for the last three and a half years?
“I’ll be back at Red Horse it looks like,” Peters said. “It’s a great company to be involved with and as long as Tom will have me, this is where I’ll be.”
Regardless of how this weekend turns out for Peters and his quest to snag the championship, there’s no reason for RHR to walk away from Homestead with anything less than pride in what they’ve accomplished this season. In a series as competitive as Truck racing can be, the organization has certainly commanded respect week in and week out, and those improvements can only mean even more in the years to come.
Update: “Sometimes I think that this team has nothing but bad luck. We work so hard, but it seems like every time we have a really good truck capable of winning, something gets in our way. I’m so proud of this team and I appreciate my guys sticking with me through this frustrating race. We have one final race to earn ourselves a win this season. I like Homestead and we’ve been so strong at the intermediate tracks; hopefully we can end this season on a high note and go out with a wine.”
“It’s hard to believe that we’ve already found ourselves at Homestead. It seems like not that long ago we were winning the pole in Daytona. So much has happened since February, both personally and competitively, both good and bad. Overall I’m proud of how hard this team works and of many of the things we’ve accomplished, although our goals were to achieve even more. I’m happy that we can realistically be pretty sure that we’ll finish in the top 10 in points, and my number one goal going into Homestead is end this season with a win and move up to ninth in the standings.” Miguel Paludo
Tweet of the Week:
@miguelpaludo: I’m sorry Papis.:( “@maxpapis: Unreliable Brazilian @miguelpaludo forgot to pick me up and now on a TAXI to airport…..still like u MIG”
@PatiSouzaPaludo: Best news of the day! Oli’s levels are the same as a person without diabetes! A1C 7.4! So happy! Proud mama! Tears in my eyes!
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