Before I reflect on this past season and talk about the coming season, I want to say that racing very recently lost a true champion. While this has been one of the most exciting and happiest days of my racing career, I also have to say that it’s a sad day, too, because of Bobby Hamilton. We have lost a great competitor, a great champion, and my thoughts, prayers and condolences are with his family. I’m still in shock about it. I just can’t believe that Bobby is not with us anymore and it’s a shame. You often hear them say that the good die young, and in this case that’s true. He was a friend, a competitor, and a real racer. I looked up to and admired Bobby Hamilton, so I’m really sad by the whole deal. I still can’t believe it.
The 2006 season was an exceptional year. It’s never good enough, because as a competitor you want more wins and you want a championship, but all-in-all, it was a great year for Red Horse Racing. Our first season all together, my first time in a Toyota, finishing fourth in the final points standings, winning at Martinsville and running consistently like we did, it just says a lot for my team.
I can’t really say there was one particular highlight, because the whole year was special. The points were so tight all season, and in the final race of the season, we could have finished as high as third or even fell back as far as ninth. If I had to pick the one highlight for me, I think it would be just being involved with such a special team. Working with the group of guys on my team, my crew chief Jamie Jones and my team owners Jeff Hammond and Tom DeLoach, we really had a special bond and special chemistry on our team.
With such a great 2006 season in the books, the question became what was I doing for 2007. For a while, I wondered the same thing. When you get that phone call from your superiors and they say, “Hey, we might not be able to run next year if we don’t get a sponsor so if somebody else calls, take it,” reality sets in. It’s kind of a shock. You sit there for a minute and you’re sad and disappointed, and you think, “How could this happen?” But it’s just part of the business we’re in. I just love to race, so waiting was the hardest part. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait that long.
After the year was up, Rick Crawford called me and wanted to know if I was interested in being a teammate. He said that his boss, Tom Mitchell, their team and Power Stroke Diesel were all interested in joining forces, and I guess my name was a big part of it. They wanted to know if I was available and I started talking to them. That phone call came a day or two after Tom DeLoach and Jeff Hammond called me to say that they didn’t have a sponsor for 2007 and didn’t know if they’d be able to give me a truck for the upcoming season. I was a little nervous, but to get that call from Rick a day or two later, talking about running two teams, both with factory support and a real big sponsor, I’m thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding! Pinch me to make sure this is happening.” I couldn’t believe it.
However, I thought this deal was going to be put together way before Christmas, but it didn’t happen that quick. It actually made me kind of nervous and worried that it wasn’t going to happen. Then, all of the sudden, I got the phone call from Rick to see if I was ready to go race. Heck, yeah I was ready. I couldn’t sign up quick enough.
It feels really good to be with a team of this caliber. It’s incredible. First of all, to drive for fellow Texan Tom Mitchell, who is a businessman out of Ozona, Texas, is really cool. I’m also looking forward to having a teammate like Crawford, who has been a competitor ever since I’ve been in the Truck Series. He’s always been one to contend with week in and week out, and to have a teammate of that caliber is amazing. I also have three-time NASCAR CTS champion crew chief in Dennis Connor, and we’ll have Rick’s crew chief, Kevin “Cowboy” Starland to help us out. I’ve been at the shop for two days working with those guys, and I’m just excited. On top of all that, to have a sponsor like International Truck and Engine Corporation is a real dream for me. I’m going to be driving the No. 10 Ford and having the MaxxForce International Diesel Power sponsorship on my truck. This is really the first time in my career that I’m going to be able to represent a true sponsor. They are the leader in their industry on diesel engines, and to be able to represent them and have their name on my truck is an honor.
With all that said, I’m very excited and optimistic about the 2007 season, and think it will be a great year. To all of my fans, I want to say how much I appreciate all of your support throughout the years. It’s been incredible!! Thank you for your support and for being my fans! See you in February at Daytona!