From staff reports
Jimmy Kite finished his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event with a flourish, running in 19th, backwards across the start-finish line at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The overall run so impressed MRD Motorsports' owner Dave Malcolmson and crew chief Bryan Berry that they have brought the Stockbridge resident back to run two more Truck Series events in the next two months.
Malcolmson announced that Kite, a four-time Indianapolis 500 starter, will pilot the No. 06 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado truck at the Dodge Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis on April 30 and at the Charlotte Tailgate 200 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 20.
"I appreciate Dave, Bryan and all the guys at MRD giving me another shot," Kite said. "I'm looking forward to racing in front of my family in Missouri and then coming back to Lowe's. I led my first IndyCar race there and it was the first track that I ever went over 200 mph. Now that they have ground the track, it will be really fast, like Atlanta. We had a great handling truck at Atlanta so that gives me a lot of confidence going into Lowe's."
Kite has also been entered into the Craftsman Truck Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year competition for the '05 season having finished as the second-highest placing rookie at Atlanta. He currently sits sixth in that competition after only one race.
The St. Louis event will be a homecoming for Kite whose family is from the nearby communities of Park Hills and Leadwood.
While the 1997 USAC Silver Crown Copper World Classic winner has only run one race on the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Ill., he has a long Midwest connection to the sport. His love affair with motorsports began when, as a child, he saw a winged sprint car do a wheelie at the dirt oval in Farmington, Mo. In recent years, Kite has driven many of those small, Missouri dirt ovals in a winged sprint car. Kite maintains a home in Missouri and, while not racing, spends much of his time there.
Kite also has prior racing experience on the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. In his first of two IndyCar starts (1997-'98) at the 1.5-mile track, Kite led 11 laps, his first ever in an IndyCar, on his way to a 15th place finish. He returned in '98 retiring with an incurable handling problem, finishing 23rd.
"We were very pleased with Jimmy Kite as a person, as a driver and in his performance in Atlanta," Malcolmson said.
"We had some mechanical issues that we didn't' know about during the race. We feel if we hadn't had those, we would have had a better finish and we are confident that they won't be an issue in the future. We're looking forward to going to St. Louis and Lowe's with Jimmy. If things continue as they have been, we look forward to a long, long relationship with Jimmy."
Kite has 23 IndyCar Series starts and countless open-wheel series victories in a number of different divisions since starting his career at age eight in quarter-midgets.
MRD Motorsports has eleven NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts with a team-high finish of ninth in n 2004. Atlanta marked MRD's first race of the 2005 season.
"For a guy that basically has never done this kind of racing before, you would have never known that from working with Jimmy," Berry said. "The first practice he ran 10 laps and came back in like he had been there forever. That was pretty impressive. Everybody really enjoyed working with him. There was a 110 percent given on his part. Jimmy got all he could out of the MRD Chevy. We're really looking forward to going to St. Louis."
On the web www.jimmykite.com, www.jimmykitefans.com