Tony Hunt competed with Travis Kvapil, Marty Houston and Tyler Walker during Addington Rac
Before the beginning of the 2001 racing season, four other drivers and myself were invited to take part in an audition to fill the seat of Addington Racing's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series truck vacated by Andy Houston. Andy, who finished third in the 2000 point standings, moved on to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series to drive the McDonald's-sponsored entry for Cal Wells in 2001
This opportunity for me to audition was generated through the efforts of SFX/Cotter Group, the agency that represents me in Charlotte, N.C. At the beginning of 2001 we were trying to identify potential Busch and Truck teams for us to pursue and came across Addington Racing, who was looking for a driver to fill its vacated seat. Since the team already had an existing sponsor, there was no money involved and we felt that it would be an ideal opportunity.
I was told that Addington Racing actually looked at more than 80 drivers before narrowing the search to four. The four drivers who auditioned for the ride were myself, Marty Houston (Andy's brother), Tyler Walker (World of Outlaws and USAC Silver Crown driver) and Travis Kvapil (NASCAR RE/MAX Challenge Series driver). Why would they choose me out of 80 drivers? Well, honestly, I think they chose me to test for two reasons: One reason was because I was an open-wheel guy, and I had come from the same series and race car as drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. The other reason I was chosen was probably because I was represented and referred by a well-known marketing agency (Cotter Communications). Addington Racing may have fantasized about Cotter Communications bringing them big money, which was probably a reality if the agency would have ever produced. Knowing this was a distraction from the beginning because I felt the team looked at my involvement with ulterior motives
The first day of testing took place at Greenville-Pickens, a famous half-mile short track just outside of Charlotte that many NASCAR teams use to test. Crew chief Rick Ren gave us all instructions and identified the format for the audition. Each of us were to get 30 laps on a new set of tires to sort the truck out and get comfortable and then follow it up with a timed non-stop 50-lap run. This would identify each driver's tire management and consistency. The first driver out in the morning was Marty Houston. Marty did a flawless job as expected. He at that point had already had almost a full season with the Truck Series
I was the third driver out and awfully eager to get in the truck. I was pretty nervous before I got in the truck, but I think I was more anxious than anything else. I had waited around all morning and watched two of the drivers run the track. I didn't get in the truck until early afternoon, but I knew once I got in I would feel right at home-just like I do when I am racing. I took the same approach that I would in any racing scenario and focused on being smooth and consistent, while-more importantly-keeping the truck out of the fence. Rick had told us from the beginning that any contact would almost certainly end our possibilities of getting the ride.
We were able to come in prior to the completion of our 30-lap run and make changes. I knew just by watching the truck that it had a good baseline setup from the morning, but when I got in the temperature had warmed up, so I had made a few subtle track bar adjustments to adjust the truck to the track temperature.