- Auto Racing - Bigley to make Truck debut at Daytona

Sunday, February 4
Bigley to make Truck debut at Daytona

Billy Bigley Jr. has been driving a race car since he was 15 years old. But come the morning of Feb. 16, the 38-year-old from Naples expects to have a few butterflies in his stomach.

That's the day Bigley makes his debut as a regular in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at the high-banked, 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.

It also will be the day when the tireless father of three will realize that his two decades of toil, sacrifice and travel to short tracks throughout the South, Southeast and Midwest finally have paid off.

"Whenever I would go to an All Pro show, everyone would always ask 'When are you going to move up?' And I had always said that when I did, it would only be to a situation I felt was right," Bigley said of the new three-year deal he has signed with Spears Motorsports to drive the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet pickup.

"I don't have to win right now," Bigley, last year's points champion in the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series for late models, added. "But I want to run well each and every week."

In all respects, landing a ride in one of NASCAR's three big- league series represents a giant move forward in Bigley's racing career. The team will run in all 24 Craftsman Truck Series events in 2001 and will try to improve upon last year's 12th-place finish in points when Marty Houston was at the wheel.

Bigley's expectations are realistic.

"It's a case of who knows, really," he said. "I want to be able to make every race and be competitive every race. I want to get as many top-10s as possible.

"But I've never really been a points guy, which may sound kind of strange since I've had success in different series. I always just try to do as good as I can and let the points fall where they may. If you finish well, the points will take care of themselves."

There will be adjustments by the dozens. First and foremost, Bigley is working to adapt to the heavier, more explosive Craftsman trucks that are powered by the same 12:1 compression, 700-horsepower engines that drive the NASCAR Winston Cup machines.

He also will need to learn quickly on tracks where he has never raced. He will need to become more familiar with the characteristics of radial tires as opposed to the bias-ply grip he's been accustomed to.

On the track and off, he will need to fit in with a new fraternity of seasoned Craftsman drivers, such as 2000 points champ Greg Biffle, Mike Wallace, Jack Sprague, Joe Ruttman, Dennis Setzer and Steve Grissom.

The Spears team already has tested in South Boston, Va., Las Vegas, Talladega and Daytona.

Bigley says he's feeling quite comfortable with everything.

"Mr. (Wayne) Spears wants to do whatever it takes to win," Bigley said of the team owner.

"All the guys on the team have accepted me like they've known me for years. You almost hate to say it, but it's seemed a little easy. It's been a lot of fun up to now."

Spears himself is based in California. From a one-man shop in 1969, he formed Spears Manufacturing Company, which since has become an industry leader in the design and manufacturing of thermoplastic valves and PVC fittings.

"Everyone associated with the team is excited," Bigley said. "I'm excited."

Getting used to the characteristics of the superspeedways will take some time.

"It does make you a little nervous, but that's the way it is the first time you go to any race track," Bigley reflected. "The big speedways are just a whole different animal."

During recent testing, he was able to experience the full-fledged drafting that is common at Talladega and Daytona.

"It was quite an experience," he said.