Compton charging after first win


star staff


  BRISTOL -- A top-flight sponsor and an established team wasn't enough to get Stacy Compton his first Busch Series victory. Adding new personnel to the No. 59 crew might just be the trick to putting the Hurt, Va. driver in the winners circle.
   "We have a whole new group of people working on the race car," said Compton during a break from testing Tuesday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "I think it is going well. We hired a new crew chief in Gary Cogswell, plus we have the local guy Chris Carrier working with both teams.
  "We learned a lot of things plus Robert (Pressley) came here last week and he learned a lot. We came back exactly like they were when they left. We made some improvements and got better."
  It's not like Compton and company have been that far off. He finished third earlier in the season at California Speedway and scored a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Pikes Peak, Colorado.
  "It's been decent, but we've been a little snakebit this year," said Compton, a former Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "We've been better the last few weeks going from 18th to 12th in points. We battled for a win a couple of weeks ago and finished second.
  "It was a struggle early on, just bad luck. We ran pretty good at times, but we changed everything over to Fords. We've made a lot of changes and it's taken a while to get our feet back on the ground."
  As part of the ST Motorsports organization, Compton is a teammate with Pressley's No. 47 team. Both drivers have been strong in the past at BMS. They have marked the upcoming Food City 250 on the calendar.
  "It's definitely possible, that's why we are here," said Compton about odds of winning at BMS. "We feel like we have always ran so good here. We feel like we put a little extra effort in and we can come in here and win this thing.
  "We certainly feel this is a race we can come to and compete to win."
  It is unusual for teammates to test at the same track, but Compton gives a solid reason for using up the team's allotted practice sessions.
  "The reason being is that we've led a lot of races here and have finished second a couple of times," said Compton. "We were second last year in the trucks.
  "We both have been so close to winning here. This is basically hometown for me and hometown for Robert (from Asheville, N.C.). It's one of the two tracks I consider home along with Richmond.
  "We put a little extra emphasis on this place because we feel we have a legitimate shot of running up front. It would be nice to win one period, but to come to Bristol would mean a lot."
  Bristol is truly the home of ST Motorsports team manager Chris Carrier, who served as interim crew chief for Compton in recent weeks.
  Compton is an accomplished racer with 36 wins and 39 poles scored while driving in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series. He was the 1994 Late Model Stock division track champion at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and competed locally at Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Virginia.
  That led to an opportunity to move to the Craftsman Truck Series. His best season came in 1998 when he ranked fourth in the tour's championship standings. In 2000, he moved up to the Winston Cup ranks, first competiting for Melling Racing and later with A.J. Foyt Racing.
  "I enjoyed the Cup Series but I'm having as much fun as I've had in a long time," said Compton, who has two Nextel Cup Series pole positions. "It's because we have enough sponsorship to go Busch racing.
  "On the Cup side with Mark Melling we ran good at times, but we were running on a two million dollar budget while everyone else was on a ten million dollar budget. We just couldn't compete."
  Another strong showing with Melling was starting on the front row for the 2002 Daytona 500. Not a bad progression for a driver who started racing go-karts at age 6 and wound up winning ten championships.
  "Here in the Busch Series with Kingsford (Charcoal) and Bush's Beans, I feel like we're at a point right now where we are sponsored as well as any Busch team," said the 37 year-old veteran, who grabbed a first career Busch pole last season at Kentucky. "When we unload, we feel we are a car to beat. It feels better to run up front week in and week out than to struggle and run around the back."
  Thus far, Compton's best year-long effort in the Busch Series was a ninth place finish in the 2002 series standings. He hopes that will improve with the addition of Cogswell, who worked earlier this season with the No. 12 Fitz-Bradshaw Busch team and briefly with Richard Childress Racing.
  "One reason we are here is to work on communication," said Compton, who couldn't test last week due to sponsor commitments. "I didn't get a chance to work much with Gary last week. Our first chance to work together was at IRP.
  "We decided to come here and it has went great. The communication level is better already. It's fun working with someone who has his experience and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."