STRONG, Me. -- Dale Brackett may not have qualified for his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago, but it doesn't have him down. In fact, he's thinking much more positively now than he was before the event.
"I was in the back of the hauler on the way down to Martinsville, really down on myself and doubting everything," Brackett admits. "But that's gone now."
The 31 year-old Maine racer took what he described as "a huge jump" by breaking into the Truck series. His wife, Valerie, purchased two trucks from Tim Bainey, Jr.'s team with the modest goal of her husband -- a former asphalt racer at Unity (Me.) Raceway and dirt Late Model driver in the Carolinas -- simply qualifying for races and getting approved to run bigger tracks.
During practice sessions in his first attempt at the Martinsville half-mile, Brackett was only about a second off the pace of eventual winner Kevin Harvick and point leader Timothy Peters. Even better, in Brackett's mind, is the fact that his truck was not in faster "qualifying trim" while virtually every other truck was.
Brackett has made some connections that he thinks will help, including former Truck and Nationwide Series champion Johnny Benson.
"My crew chief is Shain Romanoski, and his brother Vern races [ISMA] Supermodifieds. Johnny Benson is into the Supers, and we've gotten to know him pretty well throught that. He's helped us a bit," said Brackett. "We ask a lot of questions. We've got a huge learning curve and the guys on the team are all volunteers. They all bought their own NASCAR licenses at $550 each, they paid for their own drug tests, and they took time off work and used up vacation days just to go to Martinsville."
Brackett fell victim to the NASCAR rulebook when qualifying was cancelled by rain, and as a first-timer with the series and no provisional starting spot to fall back on, he was sent home to Maine.
But, Brackett and his team came back with confidence. "We belong there," he said. "We have good equipment and we ran well. We have a ton of passion, focus, and determination, as corny as that sounds. We're hoping that [NASCAR, teams, and sponsors] will take us as seriously as we take it."
Brackett finshed 12th in the first leg of the five-race Pro All Stars Series National Championship at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida in January, but decided after Martinsville that he will forgo his plans to complete the entire PASS National schedule; he did not make the trip to Hickory, N.C., for last weekend's Easter Bunny 150. Instead, he will focus on returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in six more events: Dover Int'l Speedway (May 14), O'Reilly Raceway Park (July 23), Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 18), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 18), a return trip to Martinsville (Oct. 23), and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19.
"We're running Homestead so that NASCAR can hopefully declare us eligible to run the superspeedways," Brackett explained. "I don't want to be a big talker, and it all depends on sponsorship of course, but we're looking at racing the full schedule in 2011."
He said he is still considering running occasional PASS events this season, including the PASS North opener at Speedway 95 in Bangor, Me., on April 18.
Brackett understands that his goals are big, but he says he and his team are willing to work hard to find out what they're made of.
"We're trying to make our own opportunity here. It's a huge jump from where we've been, and we know that. There's no real way to prepare for it," he says. "But you've either got it or you don't."