Pro Truck Series Pr
Twin Falls Idaho
January 18, 2016
The 2015 season officially came to a close Saturday night as the Pro Truck Series and the Rocky Mountain Challenge series partnered on what will go down as the final combined banquet for the two series’. The night began with a cocktail hour with an automated slide show full of 2015 pictures from both series’.
For the dinner portion of the night attendees were treated to a great meal provided by Cactus Petes Resort and Casino. During dinner a slide show looking back on the history of the Rocky Mountain Challenge series played bringing back a lot of memories for many in the room.
The awards portion opened up with the Pro Truck series honoring the officials. Series Director Randy Kerr talked about the importance of each official and how they are the strength behind the series. Steve Casteel, Spanky, was given a pack of sun flower seeds and Riley Roberts was presented with a large package of bubble gum. Kerr joked without having to compete for help with Mike Minegar he figured he could pay them with food in 2016.
The tracks that hosted events in 2015 were honored welcoming Adam Nelson of Meridian Speedway to the stage and presenting him with an appreciation plaque for his continued support. As Kerr advanced the slide in anticipation of the Meridian Speedway logo a picture on Mike Minegar in a half Santa suit came on the screen followed by another with him posing on the hood of a boat in the same outfit. That set the tone for the night. Following Nelson on stage was Mike Eames and Dan Breach, came up and talked about the importance of the Pro Truck Series to Rocky Mountain Raceway. Breach remained on stage and gave Rocky Mountain Challenge series stats and facts covering the history of the series. Pocatello Raceway and the return of the NAPA Auto Parts Extreme 40/40 in 2016 was talked about while a slide of the appreciation plaque was displayed on the big screen. Kerr started to talk about the return to Magic Valley Speedway in 2016 when Ashley McKean called in and talked about her excitement to become co-promoter of the Pro Truck Series in 2016. (it was announced in the beginning not everything you hear will be true)
Event partners were talked about and the ones that were present came on stage and talked about the partnership with the series and how much it has done for them. Zan Sharp of Sharp Transportation announced in 2016 he will give anyone that can knock Johnny Pierre off the championship seat a ONE THOUSAND DOLLAR BONUS and if Johnny Pierre can win a fourth straight he will give him a TWO THOUSAND DOLLAR BONUS! Tom Barker of Extreme Staffing and Payroll Services came up and talked about his excitement to hear the Trucks will be returning to Magic Valley in 2016. Extreme Staffing has services in every town the series competes in. Cortlin Runyan was invited to the stage and was presented with an appreciation plaque for NAPA Tools. It was announced Cortlin will be coming onboard with the Pro Truck series and assist in the teching duties in 2016. Greg Reitsma of Reitsma Holsteins was presented with an appreciation plaque for his continued support. Rocky Mountain Challenge series champion Johnathon Gomes came on stage to accept the Century Motorsports and Marine appreciation plaque. He announced the return of their partnership for 2016. Sleep Solutions announced they will return in 2016 after holding the drawing for the new bed. Hannah Newhouse was asked to pull the magical number from the bucket of balls, keeping it in the family Newhouse pulled the number 26 awarding the bed to her brother Mason. Drivers had to have a truck in every event in 201 5 and had to be present to win.
2015 Track Record plaques were handed out to six different drivers. Hannah Newhouse was presented first for her efforts at Meridian Speedway during the Champion Produce Diamond Cup weekend setting the record at 14.545. Pierre was honored for setting the record at Pocatello Raceway with a 15.13. Jason Quale broke the record Newhouse had set at Meridian during the Extreme 75 during the NAPA Idaho NASCAR 208 weekend with a 14.536. Cody Backus was next to qualify the same night and took the record to a 14.536. Mason Newhouse came nest and took it down to a 14.475 followed by Daniel Shirley setting it at a 14.447. Drew Reitsma was the last one to break the record setting it into the record books with a 14.378.
Several awards were handed out based on votes by the fellow competitors, they included Scott Luttmer for best dressed crew. Alan Larson for Most Helpful to Others. Favorite to Race Against and Sportsman of the Year went to Drew Reitsma, Cody Backus took home Most Improved Driver and was honored as one of three Iron Man awards as he as well as Pierre, and Quale had all completed 508 of 509 available laps in 2015. Pierre took home the Hard Charger award for the best average points in a night with 73.2. Mason Newhouse was given the Timex Award for taking a licking and keeping on Ticking.
The Gentleman Racer, Choice of Champions award was given to Fred McDonald. The award honors a person for the contribution they make to the overall support they show for the sport both on and off of as well as at and away from the track.
A video honoring second place driver Drew Reitsma played followed by the Champions video, As Johnny Pierre made his way to the stage he was asked to wait. Kerr talked about what it takes to win a championship and how one of the key eliminates is a Crew Chief. Louis Lopez was called to the stage and was presented with his Hoosier Racing Tire Champions Crew Chief Jacket. Johnny Pierre gave his championship speech and honored Lopez by awarding him the 2015 NAPA Auto Parts Champions Toolbox. Pierre had sent Scott Gilligan over to letter the box for Lopez in the weeks before the banquet.
The lights went dark on the 2015 season and a retirement party for Mike Minegar began closing out the evening.
Truck Racing for the Masses
Stock Car Racing - January 1998
- By Mike Adaskaveg
Riding high on the surge in popularity of pickups. American Race Trucks is the latest spec division. Barely two years old, it has taken the country by storm. American Race Trucks is nationwide sanctioning body as well as a manufacturing company churning out affordable turnkey racing machines for $12,500. Company president Jeff Howes sees growth ahead for this concept, which is turning nearly every short track in the country into a feeder system for NASCAR Craftsman Series truck racing.
"Someone once joked that our division is for has-beens and wannabes," American Race Trucks (ARTS) president Jeff Howes says as he maneuvers through traffic from his Tempe, AZ corporate headquarters to a new manufacturing facility in southwest Phoenix. "But that's not joke. It's positioning. That's right where American Race Trucks is supposed to be."
Howes, 49, carries himself with the polish of a former CEO of a telecommunications company--but deep inside him burns a passion for racing. He's seen kids with hopes of racing alongside Jeff Gordon have their dreams dashed by the big dollar signs that ward off newcomers to this expensive sport. Likewise, he's seen seasoned veterans and family men retiring early because the funds simply weren't there.
"I looked at Legends cars: the body styles were different; the engines weren't V-8s. I looked at IMCA modifieds: the concept was right, but they didn't look like Winston Cup cars," he says as he explains why American Race Trucks became his baby. "What an opportunity to have an entry-level, low-cost class that looks like NASCAR Craftsman truck, the premiere division of its kind.
Howes already owned Motorsports Promotion, which built FunKarts--miniature racers powered by Briggs and Stratton engines--when he acquired American Race Trucks and moved it from Nashville to Tempe.
"I was looking to expand energetically with a business synergistic to the mini-car business," says Howes. "It would be an ideal situation to work at something you love as a hobby, because it would be more than a job--the passion would be there."
PASSIONS JOINED TO GOOD BUSINESS SENSE
Howes needed more than passion to justify spending his life savings and diving head-first into a new venture. Fortunately, his business sense agreed with his decision.
"The popularity of the Craftsman Series speaks for itself," Howes says. "In the United States, trucks outsell cars."
On October 20, 1996, Howes brought the Nashville operation to Phoenix. Six months later, he had built over a hundred trucks. His assembly line can have 11 trucks to production at once.
Much of the appeal of the ARTS truck is its price. At $12,5000 complete (for Chevy C-10; Dodge and Ford are priced at $13,500), painted, with tires and engines and ready to go, the truck is a bargain. Restrictive rules prevent teams from spending themselves out of existence after they own one.
"Television made the difference. I started watching Winston Cup, and then Craftsman trucks, and I became hooked," says Howes. "The trucks are so much fun to drive. I'm dismayed that I can't participate in the races." Corporate policy at American Race Trucks prohibits employees from competing in the events they sanction. "It's just a sound business practice," says Howes. "It eliminates a lot of potential problems."
BUSINESS IS BOOMING
Drawing on his business skills as a CEO, it didn't take Howes long to assemble a team to manufacture the trucks, organize and manage their sanctioning body, and promote growth and expansion. Soon he had 68 employees and his assembly line was pumping out seven trucks a week in a well-organized, modern production facility. Shortly afterward he had to open a second facility to prepare the chassis, weld the roll cages, complete the interior or sheet metal, and paint them.
Current production doesn't fill demand, and a second shift is seen for the future. Howes plans to move the young company into a large facility under one roof within two years.
FROM JUNKYARDS TO RACE TRUCKS
The race trucks start as cars found in junkyards across America. Chassis from '78-'85 GM Regals, Monte Carlos, and Cutlasses are shipped to the ARTS Phoenix shop. There they are inspected, sandblasted, and set up on a jig where cross members, bracketry, and roll cages will be welded in place.
Piles of pre-bent tubing are stacked and hung in the facility, ready for the team of four welders to assemble them on a chassis. When welding is done, a two-man team completes the interior sheet-metal mounting. Tubing and sheet-metal mounting components are produced in-house.
The final stop for the chassis is the spray booth. After being painted in the customer's choice of color, the completed chassis is shipped across town to Tempe. Three stages of production, each with a four-person crew, await the chassis in Tempe. Suspension, brakes, and engines are stacked and ready to be put in place.
In the first stage, racing A-frames, racing coil springs, and AFCO shocks are added to the stock GM front suspension. Trailing arms, racing coil springs, and AFCO shocks are added to the rear suspension, with weight jacks for all the springs. The trucks use stock GM brakes with discs up front and drum brakes in the rear. There's an adjustable dual-reservoir master cylinder and the rear end is a standard GM 10-bolt. A 15-gallon fuel cell is added, with 15 x 8 wheels and Goodyear Eagle racing tires. Finally gauges and cables are installed. Inside the cockpit are a five-point racing harness, window net, aluminum driver's seat, and quick-release steering wheel.
The chassis rolls to the second stage, where engines for the trucks match the body brand chosen by the customer. Through extensive dynomometer development, ARTS engines are as closely matched in power as possible. A Wolverine cam, Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, and Holley two-barrel carb are used for a close power match between brands. Altering or replacing any parts other than those specified in the ARTS rule book is strictly prohibited.
Each engine is equipped with its factory-brand stock electronic ignition system and also outfitted with the appropriate factory-brand automatic transmission. The Ford F150 runs with a 302 c.i.d. engine and C-4 automatic transmission, while the Chevy 1500 has a 305 c.i.d. engine and a GM Turbo transmission. The Dodge Ram has a 318 c.i.d. engine and Chrysler 904 Turbo.
To keep the series affordable and reduce the advantage of deep pockets, ARTS prohibits bolt-on non-factory performance parts and accessories. Carburetor and timing adjustments are allowed, as are suspension setup adjustments. Those are the only things allowed to be changed after the truck leaves the factory. Any parts that need replacing are stock, and can be bought at auto-parts stores.
"The series really hearkens back to the era of true grass-roots racing, when driver ability rather than dollars dominated the winners circle," said Howes during a walking tour of his plant. "Allowing the average-income person to race at an affordable cost will result in strong and steady growth within the class."
After engine and transmission installation, the trucks head to the finishing stage. There they are fitted with a gel-coated fiberglass body and Lexan windshield. Each body style is offered in eight different colors.
ARTS trucks are fired up and tested, with final adjustments made where needed, before leaving the factory. Each truck comes with a serial number and log book, so its owner can keep an accurate history of the truck and its performance. Located in the same building as the production facility, ARTS headquarters keeps a registry of all trucks produced and each truck's performance. Customers get free newsletters, technical support, and even sponsorship hunting kits. Further support from the organization includes a driver's school, public-relations programs, and affordable race clothing of teams.
ARTS PROJECTS CONTINUED EXPLOSIVE GROWTH
As this story was written, ARTS had four regions in the nation running full fields, with each region having a full schedule and its own points championship. The Western Region's series is sponsored by Checker Shucks Kragen autoparts stores. Sponsors for the New England, Florida, and Great Lakes regions were in the process of being secured as we went to press. ARTS projects that growth will require splitting each region by next season to produce eight U.S. regions.
Not surprising to Howes, orders for trucks have come in from South Africa, South America, Canada, and Japan. "The rate at which the market and the public have received the series in its first year is phenomenal," Howes says proudly. John Pruitt has raced about every division there is in oval track competition. These days, Pruitt races the ARTS Ford-bodied truck you see here. The truck has a nearly-stock Ford 302 engine, but teams can adjust the suspension to improve lap times. Pruitt told SCR, "Here the drier has more to do with winning a race than in any other division. He or she has to feel the chassis, and learn to dial it in. Since the engines are strictly regulated, it comes down to setup and driving skill."
ARTS drivers quickly learn what to do if their truck is pushing; the fine-tuning of an ARTS truck is usually done where the right foot and the gas pedal connect. "I am a very aggressive driver," Pruitt explained. "I quickly found you can't ram one of these trucks into the corner. The harder you drive it, the more it pushes." "You have to finesse the truck."
ARTS trucks are quite different than Craftsman trucks. Start with the price tag: Pruitt's $13,500 racer is about $60,000 less than the estimated cost of a race-ready Craftsman truck, ARTS trucks are 600 pounds lighter, have a wheelbase shorter by four inches, and have 400 fewer horsepower. To add fun, they run on narrow, hard tires. Pruitt says he gets a full season out of an engine. With crew chief John Deal and assistant Greg Larrimore heading his team, Pruitt has been running up front throughout the '97 season. Pruitt sees his average race expense being about $250 a week. "How can you beat that?" he asked. "It's the best deal I've ever had."