We’re looking forward to starting out 2008 Friday night, live on Speed. I learned something today – I won the first Craftsman Truck Series race ever televised on Speed. That was the 2003 Daytona race and that was a great race. I was proud to hear that fact.
We’ve been in Daytona now since last week and we’ve done quite a bit. We got down here for media day on Thursday and did our part as far as answering questions about the 2008 season and what went in to preparing Brendan’s truck (new teammate Brendan Gaughan) and my truck to get ready for Daytona and the season. Then we talked about the future and what we expected out of the 2008 season. We answered a lot of questions for a lot of people and I’m proud to do that.
Friday we went to the Betty Jane France Charity Golf Tournament with celebrities over at the LPGA course. I played real good in that. Saturday we got a chance to watch the ARCA race and take in a few short-track races at night. Sunday I played golf with some members of my team. Monday I went for a ride on the Lucky Strike charter fishing boat out of Ponce Inlet owned by a friend of mine. We rode up and down the intercoastal waterway.
The biggest thing I probably learned since I’ve been here in Daytona is why the Daytona races are run in February. I’d bet a lot of people reading this probably don’t know why the Daytona 500 is run in February and, so, why we are here in February, too – But I’ve got the answer! I learned something new today. I don’t claim to be the smartest guy in the world, but I’m running real close to the guy who’s running second! I finally found that answer out, and that’s my history lesson of Speedweeks 2008. The answer is because the month of February is when the tide is out the furtherest here in Florida and it leaves the racers more room to race on the beach.
Things are going really smooth with the team. When you have two race teams with over 40 people employed, when things get a little hectic, it can get a little out of hand, but things have been really smooth over the winter. Kevin “Cowboy” Starland has orchestrated both teams to be prepared for Daytona. We signed on Brendan right around Christmas time and he brought along part of his team at South Point Racing. We welcomed them into the Maxx Force Diesel by International team and they join our Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International team. He’s happy about his truck already in practice. We’re working on mine a little bit, but I’m sure by Friday night we’ll both be happy with our vehicles and make some bold moves for Ford Motor Company and carry them to the front.
We’ll practice some more on Thursday and then qualify Thursday evening after the Duels and then race Friday night under the lights. Saturday night, we have the Ford Party on the Beach at the Ocean Deck and I’m part of that. We’ll answer some questions there and then drive back to Charlotte so we can be at home to watch the Daytona 500.
I’m not sure who set the schedule for the early part of the season but it’s not the way I would have done it. You’ve got transporters running from one side of the United States to the other with California just a week away. For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams and Circle Bar Racing, we have to have eight trucks prepared by the time the team leaves to go to Daytona. That’s four for Brendan’s team and four for mine because we don’t use the same truck at California that we use in Daytona. It’s a tough part of the season to be ready. It’s good if you are ready and I think that we are. After California, we get a week off and then we go to Atlanta which we’ve already tested. I think we’re in pretty good shape. I think we’re ready to go. But I do think they could have done a better job in scheduling. With the Cup guys, they just stay out west and do the California and Vegas thing and that would be fine if we put Vegas after California but we go out to California and then come home. We go to Vegas later in the year, but that’s OK. Any time we can go out to Vegas and visit the South Point Casino and race, that’s fine.
As for what we did in the offseason, we went out to Tom Mitchell’s ranch and did some hunting out there. I brought home two trophy deer. It’s a hunting section of land in southwest Texas that they’ve opened up for public hunting if you schedule a hunt. It’s a really nice place but land that probably hasn’t been hunted on in about 20 years, so the deer out there are nice. It’s a wildlife management preserve and so it’s some good hunting out there. I enjoyed the Christmas holidays but we’re back and now it’s time to race. I’m really looking forward to it!