OFF-ROAD FOCUS: CHAMP HUSEMAN BACK FOR MORE

March 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

OFF-ROAD FOCUS: CHAMP HUSEMAN BACK FOR MORE

You’ve heard that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, it seems 2010 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro 4 Unlimited champ Rick Huseman subscribes to that philosophy as he heads into this weekend’s season-opener at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz.

“We’re dealing with the same truck,” he says of his Toyota Tundra short course off road racer. “We’ve made some small modifications, but nothing real major to upset the truck or anything. The truck was working awesome last year. I feel really comfortable in the truck and, being on the same tracks, I feel I’m in a good position to do the same thing.

“Some of the other guys are struggling to make their trucks faster. We’re going to continue what we were doing, while they try new stuff. Hopefully that will give us an advantage.”

It’s a bit easier to do the same thing as last year, to keep the same program in place, when you won 10 of 15 races and the championship. Huseman finished off of the podium only twice, and found himself often working his way through the entire field after some early-race misfortune only to win anyway. He locked up the title well before the final race at Firebird International Raceway, but won that race, too, and he’s looking forward to going to that same track this weekend to open his title defense.

“It’s a great track. It’s got some ups and downs and lots of bumps and jumps. It’s a good track for passing,” he says.

And if there’s one thing Huseman knows, it’s about how to get by people. He passed more people in some races last year than a lot of drivers do all season. But, if he gets his way, he’ll be doing less of that this year as he aims to start up front as much as possible, especially given the huge number of trucks expected to turn up for the first race. Nearly 20 trucks on a one-mile course is a recipe for unintended contact if a driver isn’t clear of the pack.

“I’ve got to make sure I qualify well and start in the first three rows, then get a couple of good first laps in,” Huseman says. “If I can get around the track a couple of times without getting spun or put all the way in the back, I feel we’ll have a good fight for it. But if someone spins you in the first lap or so and you get shuffled to the back, you’re going to have problems. It’s one of those races you’ve got to be clean and don’t fight for it too hard at the beginning then come on strong at the end and hopefully you’ve got something for them.”

Most critically, that first race, when more people tend to show up than throughout the season, can have a big impact on points. A DNF with more people in front of you means fewer points for you.

Before heading to Arizona for the first race, Huseman did some testing not far from his Riverside, Calif., home, at Glen Helen – where the Lucas Series will race twice this year. Thirty flawless laps later, he and his crew – primarily brothers Danny and Kevin, along with his father, Keith – took the truck back to the shop and finish the prep work on the truck.

Oh, yeah…they had to put some new decals n the truck as well. While Monster is back as primary sponsor, he’s added E3 Spark Plugs. That means changes to the hauler, to the driver’s suit, to the uniforms and elsewhere. It’s a little added pressure as the team prepares to start the season.

“The first races are always a struggle because there’s so much more to do,” he says. “We’ve got a couple of new sponsors this year, so getting everything ready besides the truck is a lot of work. To keep all your sponsors happy, you’ve got to get all that stuff ready for the first race. But once it is, I’m very excited to get there. Once you get to the track, you feel like you have a load lifted off you, because you’re there and you’re ready to race.”

And it’s especially nice when you’ve got a reliable truck under you that you know is quick enough to consistently put you on the podium.

“We know we have a fast truck, the Toyota engines are running phenomenally and we haven’t had any problems,” he says. “Our truck is a great package and we feel we can do really well. Let’s get it started!”

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