By Anthony Rhoads
Stockbridge's Jimmy Kite is going to be a truck driver.
MRD Motorsports announced on the www.jimmykite.com website Thursday that Kite will make his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut March 18 in the World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"I've got to thank God for this opportunity," he said on his website. "I am getting to make my NASCAR Truck Series debut at my home track of Atlanta. I'm looking forward to getting in this 06 MRD truck. With all the names in the Craftsman Truck Series that I watch every race, it will be cool competing out there with them. It'll just be cool knowing this year, instead of sitting up in the condo watching the truck race, someone else will be up there watching me go around. That will be a cool change."
It will be his first NASCAR race but he has some experience at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Indy Racing League and ARCA series.
In 1999, he finished ninth in the IRL race at Atlanta and in 2000, he snagged a 12th-place finish after starting at the back of the pack in the 25th position.
Kite raced in 23 IRL events from 1997-2002 with career winnings of more than $1.5 million. He raced in four Indy 500s (1998-2000 and 2003) with two top 15s, an 11th-place finish in 1998 and a 13th-place in 2003.
"Jimmy brings a wealth of experience from his open-wheel racing so it will be our job to make him as comfortable in the truck as fast as possible," MRD owner Dave Malcolmson said. "This is completely different from open-wheel racing, how quickly we get Jimmy comfortable will let his ability take over from there. I honestly believe that as soon as we do that, Jimmy will be headed to the front."
Even though it will be Kite's debut in NASCAR, he has some experience in stock-cars as he made two ARCA starts in 1998, including one race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He also was a test driver for Teams Scandia's forays into NASCAR.
Kite's background, however, is primarily in the open-wheel cars. He made his first USAC Silver Crown start in 1995 and has competed in that series off and on since then.
"With Jimmy's experience with high speeds we felt that Atlanta would be a good fit for all of us," MRD crew chief Bryan Berry said.
"If he can run the IRL and Silver Crown on some of those little tracks, he can do this. I've messed with midgets and sprint cars in my background so I understand the difference. They are totally different animals but there is no reason he can't do this. I'm confident that he can. There is no one in the shop that isn't positive about this change."