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Committed crewman has run all 450 Truck races

August 02, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Committed crewman has run all 450 Truck races
Chris Showalter is the only person to attend every series event

LONG POND, Pa. -- The Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway marks the 450th race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since it debuted in 1995.

It will also mark the 450th time Chris Showalter has been on hand when the green flag drops.

From Tucson, Saugus and Flemington in 1995 to Daytona, Texas and even Eldora this season, the 40-year-old crew chief has been a staple in the series. His longevity is unmatched.

Not even knee surgery in 2004 could keep the Sandusky, Ohio native from showing up for work.

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“I blew out my knee on a Friday in Charlotte, and we were running Kansas the next week,” Showalter said Friday from Pocono. “I had my surgery on Tuesday, and I was on a plane Thursday.”

Now crew chief for driver Max Gresham and the No. 8 Truck Series team of Eddie Sharp Racing, Showalter said he had no idea when he began working in the series that he’d enjoy such a run of endurance.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I started off as a tire guy with Liberty Racing, with (drivers) Butch Miller and Kenny Irwin out of Ohio. We had our own little Late Model ASA team that we ran up there.

“Racing is all I’ve ever done. I’ve never had a per se factory job; all I’ve ever done is race since I graduated from high school.”

Ford officials came calling when the team won the 1994 ASA title, gauging interest in a new NASCAR series that would compete using pickup truck bodies.

Showalter said the group was more than willing to take the plunge.

He’s been on championship-winning teams on two occasions -- in 2002 with Mike Bliss and Travis Kvapil in ‘03. Both came with team owner Steve Coulter and the IWX Motor Express organization.

The ‘03 title stands out, Showalter said, “because we finished every lap but one the whole season. Our laps completed percentage was 99.9 or whatever.

“Back then we ran 25-26 races and we had 22 top-10s. That was like a dream season.”

Kvapil, driver of the No. 93 BK Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, said he remembers, “the incredible consistency we had (in ’03).

“No engine failures, no wrecks, just incredible consistency,” he said. “We probably didn’t have the fastest trucks throughout the year, but we were definitely the most consistent. We only won one race, but I think we finished second five or six times so we were there. We were consistently a top-five truck.”

Kvapil said there was talk about Showalter’s commitment even as far back as the ’03 championship season.

“It’s crazy to think 10 years later he’s still been to every one,” Kvapil said. “I know there have been times when he’s had injuries or been sick, and he’s still made his way to the race track.

“That’s just a true racer, dedication to his team. A great guy, great worker and I’d love to work with him again. He’s one of those guys who does it right, isn’t afraid to work the extra hours or go the extra mile.”

Team owner Eddie Sharp said it’s a sign of the passion that Showalter has for his job and the sport itself.

“It would be easy to get burned out,” Sharp said. “It just tells you about his character and his determination. When I hired him last year … he said ‘I’ve got a favor to ask. … I’ve never missed a race since the first truck race ever.’ And I said ‘well you won’t miss one on my watch.’

“As long as he wants to go, and he works for me, we’ll be there.”

Although the Truck Series isn’t the same kind of grind that the 38-race Cup series can be, it’s a grind just the same, with a season that also runs from February through November.

“The thing with the Truck Series teams is they are a lot smaller so everybody is a lot more hands-on; there aren’t these specialized departments where you have all these people doing all the work,” Showalter said.

“Everybody says ‘you guys only race 22-24 times a year.’ But it’s not like we’re off (for weeks at a time). And when we go to the track, there are only one or two people back at the shop. We don’t have that whole fleet of people. So our work weeks are just like going back to the track because we’re busy getting everything ready. Everybody takes for granted that everyone back home is (getting the trucks ready).”

Still, it’s the family atmosphere of the series that keeps bringing him back. “It’s the grassroots, Saturday night racing that we all grew up doing.”

So how long does Showalter plan on sticking around?

“As long as I can, health-wise,” he said. “I just turned 40 so I’m good for a while.”

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