I apologize for taking so long to update my driver diary. This stretch of consecutive races and appearances has kept us pretty busy.
Charlotte started with a two-day NASCAR test the week before and allowed us time to decide which truck we wanted to use. Kevin “Cowboy” Starland and the Circle Bar crew picked out CB-21, nicknamed Black Jack, which has been the downforce workhorse of the Circle Bar camp. The Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International ran decent that day but to me it was just way loose. I steered more to the right than I did to the left but we ended up with a top-10 finish. Anytime you have a bad day (I say it was a bad day) and still end up with a top-10 finish it’s OK, but I thought we could be a little bit better.
Mansfield was the race you’d like to forget. The Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International No. 14 truck made some really bold moves that day. We led most of the race. It was really fun to drive and went anywhere on the racetrack that I wanted to put it. We thought Elvis (nick name for Chassis CB-17) was taking us to victory lane but with 10 laps to go we cut down a right-front tire and it cost us our day. Luckily the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races week in and week out in the heat of the summer so the next week we got a chance to race again. That made it easier to forget about Mansfield.
We took a brand new truck to Dover and it ran OK as far as being a new truck out of the box. It was really a nice feeling truck but it was one of those trucks that didn’t qualify near the front where you should be. The Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International proved to be built Ford tough because it went to the front. It was running second at the point when a lapped truck spun in front of me. To make evasive action to keep from hurting a fellow driver, I backed my truck into the fence and knocked the rear frame section down on it and it was not the same race truck after that. The F-series pickup is built Ford tough so we finished the race out. We just did the best we could after that. I can take that. That’s part of racing. But with the deal at Mansfield, there were 35 other trucks on the racetrack, why did it pick my right-front tire?
Texas was a little bit easier. Kevin “Cowboy” Starland took Black Jack (CB-21) to Texas. We always try to take our best piece to Texas. That’s basically our home race track for our owners, Tom Mitchell and Lisa Carnes out of Ozona, and we have a lot of fans, a lot of friends, and employees from the Circle Bar Truck Corral that come to watch the Ford Power Stroke Diesel perform on the race track so we try to bring our best truck and put our best foot forward. Relating the same truck back to Charlotte, Kevin realized that we were on the loose side both times that we ran that truck at Charlotte and Atlanta so we went there with a little tighter setup. We qualified back in the 20s and it marched to the front right off the bat. It was a great race truck; we were in race trim most of the time in practice and knew that we were. I knew it was going to race fast. The only thing that it lacked was winning, but it did finish third and my teammate David Starr in the MaxxForce Diesel by International F-series pickup recorded our first top-five finish for that truck, so with both third and fifth it was a great day for Circle Bar Racing all on its own.
Michigan was another good race for Circle Bar Racing. Sixth for myself, and I think David finished 13th but he had a good run. He was running in the top 10 with me at Michigan. We were trying to win that race for Kevin Starland because he’s from Michigan. We had a decent qualifying effort there and it was another race where we practiced with race setup only. The truck marched to the front with a couple of adjustments and we ended up sixth so that wasn’t that bad of a day either and keeps our streak of top 10s alive and also our championship hopes alive.
Milwaukee is a favorite track of our boss, Tom Mitchell. He ran Indy cars there back in the early ’80s so we always look forward to going to Milwaukee. A lot of guys from the International brand and Ford Power Stroke Diesel were in attendance too. Dan Ustian, who is the president of International, was there as well as Tim Cooney, the vice president of International, so we had to perform. It was a “have-to” situation. I always tell myself that I feel about myself as though I am an entertainer because I like to give the sponsors and the fans their money’s worth. I think we started 13th and marched to the front all day long, made some adjustments, and ended up in the top five. We were best in class that day so we’ll take that one and go on to Memphis with it.
While we were in Michigan, David and I both attended the preview of the 2008 Ford vehicles on the Ford test track and test facility. We were able to drive probably 8-10 different new vehicles for 2008. Just like with our race trucks, with the consumer vehicles for the highway, quality is job one and they’re built Ford tough. We had a great time and Ford’s got some great vehicles coming out in 2008 so I wish everyone would take the challenge and go buy a new Ford.