PPI Motorsports

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PPI Motorsports
PPIMotorsports.jpg
Owner(s) Cal Wells
Base Charlotte, North Carolina
Series NEXTEL Cup
Car numbers #32, #96
Race drivers Ricky Craven, Travis Kvapil, Andy Houston, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Scott Pruett, Ron Fellows
Sponsors Tide, McDonald's
Manufacturer Ford, Pontiac, Chevrolet
Opened 1979
Closed 2006
Career
Drivers' Championships 0
Race victories 2

PPI Motorsports was a race team which competed in CART, NASCAR, and various off-road racing circuits. The team had one of the few remaining single car operations in NASCAR.

Early years[edit]

PPI stood for Precision Preparation, Inc., a company founded by team owner Cal Wells in 1979. The company originally provided parts for off-road racing teams. Over time, PPI eventually began its own off-road team, with help with Toyota Motorsports. PPI fielded off-road trucks for Mickey Thompson's SCORE series and then later fielded trucks which competed in outdoor events such as the Baja 1000. Notable drivers for PPI include Ivan "Ironman" Stewart and a young Robby Gordon (who also drove in CART for the team in 1998).

PPI's relationship with Toyota expanded into the open-wheel ranks in 1995, when Wells formed a CART team with good friend Frank Arciero. Their initial driver was Hiro Matsushita. Known as Arciero-Wells, the CART team lasted for 5 years but only a managed a best finish of 4th in 1999 with rookie Cristiano da Matta. In 1996, they began the CART season with Jeff Krosnoff driving, but he died in a tragic accident during the Toronto street race. All PPI cars carry a decal commemorating Krosnoff's memory. After Arciero left in 2000, the team was rebranded as PPI Motorsports, and da Matta gave the team its first (and only) career victory in CART. During this time, the team also ran a program in the Toyota Atlantic series, and had success in 2000 with rookie of the year Dan Wheldon. Following the 2000 season, however, PPI shut down its open-wheel and off-road programs, ended its relationship with Toyota, and shifted its focus exclusively on NASCAR.

PPI also competed in Toyota Atlantic from 1998-2000, winning races with Anthony Lazzaro, Andrew Bordin, and Dan Wheldon. Lazzaro won the championship for the team in 1999.

NASCAR years[edit]

PPI started its first Cup team during the 2000 season with open-wheel and Trans Am standout Scott Pruett behind the wheel of the #32 Tide Ford. The team was hardly a success in its first year, finishing in 37th place and failing to qualify for a number of races. Pruett was released at the end of the season and returned to Trans-Am.

With the team focusing exclusively on NASCAR in 2001, PPI fielded a two-car Winston Cup effort, with Ricky Craven taking over in the "Tide ride" and former Craftsman Truck Series star Andy Houston taking over in a second car, the #96 McDonald's Ford. Houston's team was shut down before season's end due to a lack of good results and the loss of its sponsor. Craven, however, had a number of strong races, which was capped by Craven giving the team its first career victory at Martinsville in October. He finished 21st in the championship that year.

Craven ran strong in 2002 and, although he failed to win a race for the team, he managed to improve his championship standing and finishing 15th overall. This was the team's last season in a Ford, as they switched to Pontiac the next season.

Craven started 2003 in the same way, with a strong top-5 at Rockingham and a famous victory at Darlington, which saw Craven beat Kurt Busch to the finish by just .002 seconds, which still stands today as the smallest margin of victory in NASCAR Cup Series history. It also turned out to be Pontiac's last win in Winston Cup. However, a rash of DNF's dropped Craven to 27th in the final standings.

PPI showed clear signs of struggling in 2004 as Craven was unable to give the team a single top-10 finish through the first 24 races. Wells and Craven parted ways due to lack of results and Busch Series driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. took his place. Hamilton drove the car for the entire 2005 season. However, he failed to score a top-ten during the year, and eventually finished 36th. Wells did have some success after replacing Hamilton with road course ringer Ron Fellows at Infineon, with Fellows giving the team an eighth place finish. Hamilton was replaced by Travis Kvapil, who drove the car for the 2006 season, but had 5 DNQs (did not qualify).

The inability to find a sponsor for the 2007 season as Tide had already announced that it is leaving the sport, along with the fact that much of the team had already either been laid off or having been hired by Michael Waltrip Racing, led to closure of their shop and forming a partnership with MWR's #00 Toyota Camry. PPI Motorsports has been liquidated to various buyers.

Driver history[edit]

CART[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

External links[edit]