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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes – Chicagoland

Ron Hornaday continues to lead the championship standings by a healthy margin as the 51-year-old Californian bids for a record fourth title.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 24, 2009) – One might assume an inaugural event at a track new to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series would find everyone on equal footing.

Not necessarily so.

Chicagoland Speedway, host to Friday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 225, has been part of both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series schedules since 2001.

Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/Red Top Auction Toyota) won last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup LifeLock.com 400 as well as the companion Dollar General 300. Busch will drive in Friday’s race hoping to complete the track’s national series triple before flying north for the NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

“The biggest thing I learned last year was the track didn’t change much.  It just got cooler and gained grip,” said Busch, who has wins in all three national series at four different tracks. “Winning both races at Chicago last year – it was just a great weekend.”

Busch isn’t the only driver doing double duty this week. Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) also will head for Montreal following Friday night’s race.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Curb Records/Rodney Adkins Chevrolet) won the Dollar General 300 in 2002 with Todd Bodine (No. 30 Ventrilo Toyota) second after winning the pole. Bodine also was the pole winner for the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 2001.

“Germain Racing’s done a lot of testing there. We’ve run really well,” said Bodine, who hopes to make up some of the points he lost at Bristol where he finished 32nd and fell out of the top five in the points standings. “Chicago is a great town. I’m definitely looking forward to racing at the track again.”

Series points leader Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Turtle Wax Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 PC Miller Navigator Toyota) boast a combined eight national series starts at the 1.5-mile facility. Hornaday finished fifth in the 2002 NASCAR Nationwide event and 10th two years later.

“We had the Nationwide race won there back in 2001, but a late caution came out for debris and Jimmie Johnson put on four fresh tires and we wound up second,” said Skinner.

Stacy Compton (No. 60 SafeAuto Insurance Toyota) has amassed nearly 1,400 laps at Chicagoland in NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide events. “Undoubtedly, the trucks are going to go there and run wide open,” said Compton, who likens the track to Kentucky Speedway where he contended for a victory last month before a late-race accident foiled his challenge.

Winners Of Inaugural Races
(Active NCWTS Drivers)
Driver                  Wins
Ron Hornaday Jr.   9
Mike Skinner         6
Mike Bliss             3
Butch Miller           1
Ken Schrader        1

Busch Doubles At Bristol Ending Hornaday’s Victory Streak

Ron Hornaday Jr.’s amazing five-race win streak ended at Bristol Motor Speedway. What probably wasn’t so surprising was Kyle Busch was the driver to stop Hornaday’s run given the winner’s statistical advantage.

Busch, the defending winner of the O’Reilly 200 presented by Valvoline, entered the race ranked second in Bristol’s Driver Rating. He headed four of the rating’s eight statistical categories to Hornaday’s none.

Hornaday, however, didn’t go down without a fight. He battled back from 18th after losing track position on an early-race pit stop to finish third behind Busch and championship rival Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards/IDEAL Door Chevrolet).

“Overall, winning five in a row, I have to thank of these fans and everything that has been written. It has been a lot of fun. We will just start all over again,” said Hornaday.

The win was Busch’s third of the season and 12th in series competition.

Hornaday continues to lead the championship standings by a healthy margin as the 51-year-old Californian bids for a record fourth title. His 211-point cushion over Crafton is the series’ second largest with 10 races remaining.

“It was a good points day and we’ll take it,” said Hornaday.

Carelli Comments On Chicagoland: It Reminds Him Of Homestead

Rick Carelli is general manager at Kevin Harvick Inc., serves as spotter for driver Ron Hornaday Jr. and won four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. His most recent visit to Chicagoland Speedway came last month when Harvick finished fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300.

Compare Chicago to another track:
“Chicago is pretty much like all of the other 1.5-mile tracks we compete at, but you never know what you’re going to find when you get there.  Even though the tire compound is the same for the trucks as it was the Nationwide cars, you don’t know how much grip you’re going to have or where at on the track you can find it.  Chicago is an area that does have pretty severe weather throughout the year and it is a track that ages. If I had to compare it to a track, I guess it would be Homestead-Miami. Homestead is sandy and gritty; Chicago is taking on that characteristic.  We are fortunate at KHI that we do have some notes we can ballpark our set-up from with our Nationwide car. ” 

How do you approach a new track from a driver’s perspective?
“I always tried to go into a new track with an open mind.  That way you don’t have any habits, good or bad. Typically, when you go to a new track, you will unload off the truck really good and then adjust yourself out of it.  Inaugural races are always fun because everyone goes in there on the same playing field. There are so many variables, it should be exciting.”
 
How will the Trucks be different from the Nationwide cars?
“Well, we run a different gear and have a higher center of gravity in comparison to the cars.  I think our aero packages will come into play more so than theirs because we ultimately punch a larger hole in the air.  The trucks are going to draft better. To be honest, the quickest learner is going to win the race.  Whichever team can maximize grip and find a line that works for their equipment, will be hard to chase down.”

Illinois Natives Come Home

Bobby Dotter, general manager at SS Greenlight Racing, is among Illinois natives “coming home” to Chicagoland Speedway this week.

Dotter finished 13th at Chicago Motor Speedway in 2001 when the series last visited his hometown. Dotter began his driving career at area short tracks and expects many family and friends in the stands this week.

“We’ve tested (there) two or three times so we’re kind of familiar with it,” he said of the track. “We did a big test with Chad McCumbee (No. 07 ASI Limited Chevrolet) and went to Nashville Superspeedway and he qualified second. We really like it.”

Two Kevin Harvick Inc. employees have Illinois roots. Ron Hornaday Jr.’s crew chief, Rick Ren, is from Danville in eastern Illinois.

Craig Noble is the team engineer for the No. 4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet driven by Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Carmichael. Noble hails from Farmer City, near Bloomington.

Etc.

  • Kyle Busch’s Bristol victory marked the sixth consecutive season in which crew chief Richie Wauters has at least one victory. He matches the series record previously shared by Dennis Connor (1996-2001) and Mike Hillman Jr. (2004-09).
  • When Ron Hornaday Jr. failed to lead a lap at Bristol, it marked the end of a 12-race streak which stands (with Jason Leffler) as second in the series to Mike Skinner’s 19.
  • Jason White (No. 23 Gunbroker.com Dodge) led 86 laps to claim the O’Reilly 200’s 10-point leader bonus. White had led only 13 laps in 68 previous starts. His 16th ranking in series points is three positions higher than White’s career best a year ago.
  • Three drivers have competed in all 13 series races held in the state of Illinois: Terry Cook (No. 25 Cajun Industries/Harris Trucking Toyota), Rick Crawford (No. 14 International/Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet). Cook has the only victory at Gateway International Raceway in 2002.
  • Ricky Carmichael is one six featured extreme athletes that star in X Games 3D: The Movie, which was released in theaters on Aug. 21. and will run through Friday Aug. 28 only. You can download the trailer at: www.xgames3dmovie.com or check your local listings for theaters and air times. “I competed in the X-Games the weekend of Nashville, it was fun,” said Carmichael. “I received a co-gold medal in the step-up competition, but I also took a pretty wicked fall.”

Loop Data: Brian Scott’s ‘Big Break’ Only Made Him Better

Brian Scott’s (No 16 Albertsons Toyota) lowest point, by far, this season was the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

He ran only eight of the 100 laps, finishing 34th – and breaking his wrist. The finish dropped Scott six positions in the points standings – from fifth to 11th.

But the resiliency of Scott has shown since. The mountain of disappointment leaving that race did nothing to slow the driver who is in only his second full season in the series.

Actually, the experience only made him better.

Since the accident, Scott finished outside the top 10 only once (a 12th-place run at O’Reilly Raceway Park), and now sits a career-high fourth in the standings.

His statistics before and after Michigan are night and day. In the first nine races (which included the Michigan race), Scott had an average finish of 14.8, an Average Running Position of 15.7, 20 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 55.4%, 22 Laps Led and a Driver Rating of 82.7.

The above numbers are solid – yet pale in comparison to Scott’s statistics over the past six races.

Over that span, Scott has an average finish of 5.0, an Average Running Position of 8.1, 45 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 87.6%, 49 Laps Led and a Driver Rating of 102.6.

The statistics suggest Scott’s recent surge could continue through this weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. At superspeedways this season, Scott has a strong Driver Rating of 88.2.

Wayne’s Words: Crank Up The Bluesmobile; We’re Headed For Joliet

“I think it’s safe to say that all of us — competitors, officials and fans — have looked forward to this week and next when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series visits a pair of new tracks.

“This schedule has been fairly consistent over the past few years so it’s rare to see a track for the first time, let alone two.

“We’re pleased to be returning to the Chicago area. We ran two races in Cicero in 2000-01, but going to Chicagoland Speedway is a big step up for our series. Anytime we add a track that hosts a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is a very big deal.

“And, we enjoy sharing the weekend with our friends at the Indy Racing League as we do at Kansas Speedway and  Texas Motor Speedway.

“Chicago is famous for food so that’s definitely on everyone’s list of things to do. Joliet, of course, is well-known for its setting in the classic 1980 “Blues Brothers” film.

“If you fly into Midway Airport, you actually can have your picture taken with life-size sculptures of John Belushi (Jake) and Dan Aykroyd (Elwood).

“This is a Friday night race so we look forward to another staple of Chicagoland Speedway; some of the most vivid sunsets you’ll ever see.

“One other thing. Our drivers are up on the wheel from green flag to checkered but this week is special. You only get one chance to be the first winner at a track.

“Expect some of the year’s most intense competition. It should be a great show for the fans and SPEED’s viewing audience.” - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Rookie Battle: One Point Separates Leaders After Bristol Round

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

      Driver                  Points
1.   Tayler Malsam       156
2.   Johnny Sauter        155
3.   James Buescher     146
4.   Ricky Carmichael     93
5.   J.R. Fitzpatrick         79
6.   Brian Ickler               67
7.   Chris Jones              53
8.   Brent Raymer           52
9.   Chase Austin            16
10. Ryan Hackett              5

Bristol’s “rookie jinx” continued last week with no Raybestos candidate able to finish among the top 10. J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 4 Equipment Express Chevrolet) got close but settled for an 11th-place finish two spots ahead of James Buescher (No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford).

Standings leader Tayler Malsam (No. 81 One-Eighty Toyota) ran into trouble early. Malsam clings to a single-point lead over Johnny Sauter. Buescher is 10 points behind, making it very much a three-driver race.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers’ Championship Standings
following Race 15 of 25 at Bristol Motor Speedway:

Toyota     111
Chevrolet 109
Ford          64
Dodge       46

Get Your Vote In!

Plenty of time remains in the battle for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver title but don’t forget to cast your ballot. Polls opened July 6 and nearly 16,000 votes have been cast. Time runs out Oct. 31.

Johnny Benson took home the honors last year, the first time fans had a hand in the selection process. Visit NASCAR.com to vote or to write in your favorite driver. If they’re not among the nominees, write to fanfeedback@nascar.com.

Up Next: Iowa Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series remains in the Midwest for its inaugural trip to Iowa Speedway for the Sept. 5 Lucas Oil  200.

If the recent NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the .875-mile facility in Newton is any indication, Hawkeye State fans are in for an equally exciting show.

Iowa Speedway is the second new-to-the-schedule facility the series visits in as many weeks. That marks the first time since 1998 — Memphis Motorsports Park and Gateway International Raceway — that first-year tracks have occupied adjacent dates.

The Lucas Oil  200 is the fifth of six races scheduled in 2009 on tracks of less than a mile in length. Sharing the weekend on Sept. 4 is the NASCAR Camping World Series West.

Fast Facts

Next Race: EnjoyIllinois.com 225

The Place: Chicagoland Speedway

The Date: Fri., August 28, 2009

The Time: 9 p.m. ET

Race Distance:  225 miles / 150 laps

TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on WCSJ-FM 103.1 / WSPY-FM 107.1

Track Layout: 1.5-mile Oval

2008 Winner: Inaugural race

2008 Polesitter: Inaugural race

Schedule: Thursday: Practice, 1 - 4 p.m. and  5:45 - 8 p.m. Friday: Practice 10:40 — 11:45 a.m. Qualifying, 3:10 p.m.

2009 Standings
Rk Driver                  Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 2,458
2   Matt Crafton        2,247
3   Mike Skinner       2,153
4   Brian Scott          2,075
5   David Starr          2,013
6   Todd Bodine        1,994
7   Colin Braun         1,931
8   Dennis Setzer      1,915
9   Tayler Malsam     1,901
10 Rick Crawford       1,891


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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