Houston To Drive For PPI At Michigan

HICKORY, N.C. -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Andy Houston will make his Winston Cup debut at the Pepsi 400 at Michigan Speedway Aug. 18 in a second car run by PPI Motorsports, it was announced Wednesday.

The No. 98 Ronald McDonald House Charities Ford will be fielded alongside the team's No. 32 Tide Ford, driven by Scott Pruett, as part of PPIM's development toward a full time two-car effort in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2001.

"From an R&D standpoint, the benefits of running a second car add nothing but value to our overall racing program, both now and as we build a foundation for next year," said Cal Wells III, president and owner of PPI Motorsports. "We have always believed very strongly in a two-car, one team approach, one that shares testing and race weekend information and resources to make both efforts twice as strong in a shorter amount of time. In running a second Cup car at Michigan, we're striving to accelerate our learning curve as we continue to gain momentum through a very critical part of our first Winston Cup season. It's the right time for us to do this, and fortunately we had the resources to make it happen.

"We're extremely pleased that a driver of Andy's caliber was available to take the reins for us in Michigan," Wells added. "He's a very capable, talented athlete, as he's proven in the Craftsman truck series, and we're looking forward to watching him take on his first Winston Cup race in one of our cars. And we're thrilled that we could also provide some exposure to Ronald McDonald House Charities, at no cost to them, with this effort."

Andy Houston, 29, of Hickory, N.C., currently stands fourth in NASCAR Craftsman Truck series points as driver of the No. 60 Cat Rental Store Chevrolet for Addington Racing. To date, he has claimed two race wins (Homestead and Portland) and one pole (Pikes Peak) going into this weekend's truck series race at Nashville Speedway. Houston won his first truck series race at New Hampshire International Speedway in his rookie season after 19 starts (1998), then claimed his first series pole in 1999 at Fontana. Prior to joining the truck series, Houston competed in the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series and the NASCAR Winston Racing Series late model championship, which he won in 1994.

"I'm of course very excited about the opportunity to drive the Ronald McDonald House Charities Ford at Michigan," said Houston of his new assignment. "It's a big step for me, because ultimately I'd like to drive Winston Cup cars full time. But I'm not focusing on the future so much as just doing a good job for PPI Motorsports. My goal is to race - to make the race and do a good job, and show everyone what I'm capable of doing. I'm getting some of the biggest opportunities of my life right now. I just need to be patient and try to make the best of them."

Ronald McDonald House Charities, a non-profit, 501(c)3, provides comfort and care to children and families through its network of nearly 170 local Charities currently serving in 32 countries. The Charity makes grants to not-for-profit organizations, primarily for programs that provide services aimed at improving the health and wellness of children, and provides support to Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide. To date, Ronald McDonald House Charities' national body and global network of local Charities have awarded more than $225 million in grants to children's programs worldwide.

"We supported PPI Motorsports' decision to field a second car in Michigan, because we knew it would ultimately benefit the development of our joint 2001 Winston Cup program," said Georgina Roy, McDonald's Motorsports Manager. "When Cal extended the offer to run the Ronald McDonald House Charities colors on the car, we were extremely appreciative of the opportunity to acknowledge a charitable cause that is such an important part of the McDonald's family."

PPI Motorsports will return to Michigan Speedway (where Pruett and the Tide team finished 19th in early June) following competition in this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International, Aug. 11-13.

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