March 16, 1999 – Bliss Anxious to Get NASCAR Craftsman Truck Season Started
March 16, 1999 — Mike Bliss moves to the Roush Racing stable in 1999 and will pilot the #99 Exide Batteries Ford F-150. Following four successful years in the NCTS, the 1998 Busch Pole Award winner is excited about the upcoming season which begins Saturday, March 20 at Homestead, Florida.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DURING THE OFF-SEASON TO PREPARE FOR 1999? "Mostly I’ve drove my wife (Sue) crazy around the house. Seriously though, I did compete in the USAC Silver Crown series as I’ve done in the past. This off-season has really seemed to drag on though. I’m anxious to get going."
YOU’VE MOVED OVER TO A NEW TEAM FOR 1999, HOW IS THE ROUSH RACING TEAM DIFFERENT? "Roush obviously takes racing very seriously. They handle their truck team like they handle their Winston Cup teams, with a ton of effort and focus. Roush builds all the race chassis and do everything in-house and that’s important when you might wreck something and then be able to get it fixed right away. The whole Roush shop is set up very well. A lot of the team guys have worked on the Roush Trans-Am teams in the past, so they know what they’re doing."
TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW TEAMMATE GREG BIFFLE. "Working with Greg is going to be a real plus for the team. I think there are some things that I can share with Greg that will help him and vice versa. His Roush team ran very well last year at some places. I want to see what he has learned from the past few years in the series. I’ve got a lot of mental notes from my past truck experiences that can help us both. It’s been interesting to see how similar we are as far as set-ups go. Our driving styles are pretty much the same, so we look for the same set-up and feel."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE HOMESTEAD TRACK? "Last year was the first year of the new configuration at Homestead. I liked the old configuration better. I do like the flat and fast tracks like Homestead. I started second there last year but didn’t finish as well as I would have liked. It’s kind of a unique track because it is so long and it takes a lot of different approaches to be fast there. I noticed during our test that the weather plays more of a key because it seems to change the surface conditions. The corners are so big and so important. If you don’t get off the corners well, you won’t be fast in the straights. You can have all the horsepower in the world, but you have to get through those tough corners or you won’t go down the straightaways very fast."
HOW WAS THE TEAM TEST AT HOMESTEAD? "The test went very well. That was the first time our new team had a chance to spend any time together. We went into the test not expecting much but it was good to start getting used to the new guys and to start working with Greg."
HOW HAS THE TRUCK SERIES CHANGED OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS? "When the series started, it took off like gangbusters. Everybody was very excited about it and some people thought that it might be as big as the Busch series by now. Our quick start might have hurt us though. I think the changes that NASCAR is making with the scheduling and the TV package will help. We’ve needed to focus more on when we were going to run and what network you could see us on. It’s exciting to see that NASCAR has made some improvements to the truck series. We needed some attention to help us grow and this year we’ve gotten it."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 1999? "This #99 team has finished third the last few years so we’re ready to make the next step and battle for a championship. Going in with a new team, I don’t want to set our goals too high and then be disappointed but I definitely feel like we can win some races and be in the top-three at the end of the year if everything goes right."
WHAT CAREER GOALS DO YOU HAVE? "I think that 90% of the drivers out here want to make the next step up to either Busch or Cup. I definitely do. I did look at the Busch series this year and nothing worked out. I feel that the truck series will be just as competitive and exciting as the Busch series this year. If I never make the next step, I won’t be disappointed. I’m happy where I am."
CAN FORD CATCH THE REIGNING MANUFACTURERS CHAMP? "The Ford teams have continued to improve. Chevy got a jump on us early on in the series. But last year Ford gained a lot and won more races than ever and were closer at the end of the season. I think that we’ll give them a great run this year."