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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Texas

After an early season that saw six races stretched over nearly three months, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams head to Texas Motor Speedway for the second race of a five-weekend swing that takes teams from Dover, Del., to Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 1, 2009) – Like grapes, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winners come in bunches at Texas Motor Speedway.

The track, which hosts Friday night’s Winstar World Casino 400, boasted eight consecutive different winners from its debut on the schedule in 1997 through the fall race of 2002.

When Brendan Gaughan first stepped into Victory Lane in June 2003, that changed.

Gaughan went on to record four consecutive wins through the fall of 2004.

In the 10 races since Gaughan’s last victory, two drivers — current NASCAR Camping World Truck points leader Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) and 2006 series champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Copart.com Toyota) — have accounted for six wins.

Bodine matched Gaughan’s total with victories in each season from 2004-07.

Hornaday, not to be outdone, swept both spring and fall races at Texas Motor Speedway a year ago — that after  the all-time series winner had gone 0-for-10 at the 1.5-mile facility.

The 40-time series winner looks no further than his pit box to explain why.

“We had been decent there in the past but for some reason, (crew chief) Rick Ren and the guys hit something the past couple of years,” said Hornaday. “I’m not sure if it’s aero or what but the trucks we bring there drive really good.

“It is really hard to do that (sweep) with the competition in the series the way it is today. I’m really proud of that accomplishment. I hope we can go there this weekend and do it again.”

Ren, who also has Texas wins with Andy Houston and Travis Kvapil, said, “We worked really hard on getting the trucks comfortable for Ron to drive at places like Texas and Charlotte. After he was comfortable behind the wheel, then we worked on making them fast. I think that is what has made the most difference at the 1.5-mile tracks.”

Bodine, winless since the opening race at Daytona, is anxious to get back in Victory Lane and become the first to win five times at the same track.

“What having four wins at Texas means for this Copart Tundra team is that we know we can win at Texas and know we can get around there,” said Bodine. “Racing at the mile-and-a-half is about going fast and being patient.”  

And Now, The Heart Of The 2009 Campaign Beckons

Now, as they say, things get interesting.

After an early season that saw six races stretched over nearly three months, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams head to Texas Motor Speedway for the second race of a five-weekend swing that takes teams from Dover, Del., to Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

The May-June schedule won’t decide the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck championship. But safe to say a championship can be lost as spring becomes summer and both heat and pressure intensify.

A year ago, neither 2008 champion Johnny Benson (No. 1 Red Horse Racing Toyota) nor runner-up Hornaday missed a beat .

Benson collected his third consecutive victory at the Milwaukee Mile, finished second at Michigan, was third in Texas and 10th at Dover.

Hornaday won twice, in Texas and at Memphis Motorsports Park, was third at Dover and seventh in Milwaukee.

Both outdistanced 2006 titleholder Todd Bodine, whose trio of top-five finishes couldn’t match his rivals’ pace. Bodine was the points leader entering Dover’s AAA Insurance 200 but emerged third, 54 points behind Hornaday, when the Memphis race had been run.

Bodine ultimately finished 104 points behind Benson and 97 arrears of Hornaday.

The post-Dover margin between first and third a year ago was a slim 24 points vs. 29 points in 2009. Veteran Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/International Truck and Engine Ford) headed the standings.

One bad finish — 21st at Texas — may not have doomed Crawford’s championship hopes but it stalled the Alabama driver’s momentum. Crawford had slipped to fifth after the Memphis race and was seventh at season’s end.

It’s still early in the year but running both fast and mistake-free during the coming month figures to pay dividends when the season winds down in the fall.
 
Great Scott! Another First Time Winner As Dover’s Streak Reaches 10

Another Dover; another Scott.

Brian Scott’s (No. 16 Albertsons Toyota) victory in the May 30 AAA Insurance 200 gave Dover International Speedway back-to-back first-time winners.

Scott Speed was the surprise occupant of Victory Lane one year ago.

In fact, Dover has crowned four first-time winners in its 10 races — Scott, Speed, Chad Chaffin and Jason Leffler.

Ten Dover races; 10 different winners.

“I don’t think I breathed the last ten laps,” said Scott. “I think (crew chief) Jeff Hensley said it the best right when I got done doing the burnout and he said, ‘Somebody pinch me.’ So, I reached over to pinch myself to make sure to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, too. It’s just an awesome feeling.”

Scott is the sixth different winner in the season’s first seven races matching a record set in 1997. The six-for-seven number had been matched in five other seasons, most recently in 2008.

Scott, 21, enjoyed a huge bounce in NASCAR Camping World Truck points standings. He entered the race ranked 10th and jumped all the way to fifth, 107 points behind leader Ron Hornaday Jr.

He is the series’ youngest first-time winner since Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Gaming and Resorts Toyota) won in 2005, 18 days past his 20th birthday.

Sauter’s Top Five Tightens Raybestos Rookie Race

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Rk  Driver                   Points
1.   Tayler Malsam         71
2.   Johnny Sauter         71
3.   James Buescher      65
4.   J.R. Fitzpatrick        52
5.   Ricky Carmichael     45
6.   Brent Raymer          30
7.   Chris Jones             19
8.   Chase Austin           16
9.   Brian Ickler               8

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Adkins/Curb Records Chevrolet) has run well this season but hadn’t been able to finish one off — until last weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Sauter raced to a fifth-place finish notching just his second top five in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He finished second in August 2004 at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

Both Sauter and Tayler Malsam (No. One Eighty Toyota) have scored 71 points through the season’s first seven races.

“All in all a good day for us and hopefully we take this truck to Texas and keep going,” said Sauter. He finished one position ahead of Thorsport teammate Matt Crafton.

Eyes Of Texas Upon Several

Three drivers, an owner and a crew chief would like nothing better than to win in their native Lone Star state.

David Starr (No. 24 Zachary Toyota), Houston, has 21 starts at TMS, finishing third on three occasions.

Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford), Ovalo, finished fifth and 22nd at TMS in 2008.

Joey Sonntag, a Dallas area native who formerly owned a NCWTS team, returns as crew chief for J.J. Yeley (No. 73 County Building Centers/Circle M Toyota).

And James Buescher of Plano will be driving the No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford owned by Ozona, Tex.’s Tom Mitchell. His Circle Bar Racing teammate, Rick Crawford, has competed in all 22 TMS races.

Wayne’s Words: Texas

“There’s an old saying about fishing where the fish are and that’s absolutely true in Texas, where the folks like their racing and their pickup trucks.

“That’s why competitors look forward to their two visits to Texas Motor Speedway where they always get a rousing reception.

“Another thing: Texas races usually are unpredictable. We’ve had surprise winners; rookie drivers finishing 1-2-3; last lap, come-from-behind drama, and a couple of championship contenders wrecking each other with the title on the line.

“Finally, Texas can be described by a single word: Fast. We race at similar tracks where the speeds also are high but Texas Motor Speedway has its very own personality.

“It is safe to say that any driver who wins at Texas has truly arrived. Oh, and the winner gets a cool cowboy hat and fires six-guns in Victory Lane.

“It doesn’t get much better than that.”
-Wayne Auton
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director
  
Texas Motor Speedway is hosting its 23rd NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night. The 1.5-mile facility was the fastest speedway on the schedule when TMS came aboard in 1997. The track is one of two (Martinsville is the other) to host two races in 2009.

Texas Motor Speedway Is The Home Of Champions

Texas Motor Speedway has statistically become the home of champions when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hits town.

Four past champions in particular pepper the top of the statistical leader board: Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson and Todd Bodine. 

Friday night’s showdown may well be reminiscent of 2007’s year-long Hornaday vs. Skinner battle. But this weekend, the match whittles down to one race.

Skinner and Hornaday rank 1-2 in practically every key Loop Data category since 2005:

Average Running Position: Skinner leads 4.3 to Hornaday’s 6.1.

Driver Rating: Skinner leads 125.1 to Hornaday’s 119.9.

Fastest Laps Run: Skinner leads 169 to Hornaday’s 161.

Laps in the Top 15 percentage: Skinner leads 96.8% to Hornaday’s 91.2%.

Laps Led: Skinner leads 400 to Hornaday’s 352.

But Hornaday leads in one statistic – the most important one. He has two Texas wins, compared to Skinner’s zero. Skinner has won the pole in five of his 10 Texas starts, but never followed up with a victory. His best finish was second, three different times.

Also watch for champions Benson and Bodine to be a factor this weekend. Benson has a Driver Rating of 102.4 and an Average Running Position of 9.7. Bodine, winner of four Texas races, has a Driver Rating of 100.5 and an Average Running Position of 12.6.

NCWTS Etc.

  • Toyota posted its fifth victory of the season at Dover and has extended its Manufacturers’ Championship standings lead to nine points over Chevrolet. A Tundra has won five times at Texas Motor Speedway since joining the series in 2004. Chevrolet captured the other five races.
    2009 Manufacturers’ Championship Standings following Race 7 of 25 at Dover International
    Speedway:
    Toyota     57
    chevrolet  48
    Ford        27
    Dodge     22
  • Dover International Speedway ranks third among tracks with first-time winners at four. Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway are the leaders with five apiece.  Texas Motor Speedway also has crowned four first-time winners.
  • Dennis Setzer’s runner-up finish at Dover is the best by the Newton, N.C., native since joining HT Motorsports. Setzer had a win and two seconds in 2008 with Bobby Hamilton Racing. Setzer has posted top-five finishes in 12 consecutive seasons and 13 of the 14 years he has competed in the NCWTS.
  • Speaking of Setzer, he is a double winner at Texas Motor Speedway. Bodine and Hornaday are the only other TMS winners in the field for the Winstar World 400.
  • Aric Almirola returns to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this week in Billy Ballew Motorsports’ No. 15 Samsung Instinct Toyota.  Almirola’s last appearance came at TMS a year ago. He finished 17th.
  • Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Ricky Carmichael returns to the No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet this week. The Kevin Harvick Inc. team has employed multiple drivers this year with J.R. Fitzpatrick finishing 11th at Dover International Speedway.
  • Todd Bodine led only the final lap in the 2006 Winstar World 400. His victim was Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota), who counts five Keystone Light Poles at TMS but still looks for his first victory. Skinner has finished second on three occasions and third twice. He is riding a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes. Skinner was ninth in last year’s spring race.

Ballew Extends Owner Lead

Kyle Busch’s ninth-place finish at Dover increased to 99 points the lead Billy Ballew Motorsports’ No. 51 Miccosukee Gaming and Resorts Toyota holds in NCWTS owner standings.

Brian Ickler will be at the controls in Texas.

“I’ve never been to Texas but I’m very optimistic about running there,” said Ickler.

Ickler drove the No. 51 truck in his series debut at Kansas Speedway, finishing fifth.

Up Next: Michigan International Speedway

Last year’s finish at Michigan International Speedway will be difficult to duplicate but that’s not to say it’s impossible.

Erik Darnell and Johnny Benson roared out of Turn 4 side by side with Darnell prevailing at the stripe by .005 seconds — the closest finish in series history as measured by computer.

Darnell’s victory was the 49th for Roush Fenway Racing. However, the team — which counts four trips to Victory Lane at the 2-mile track west of Detroit — has been shut out in its quest for a record 50th win.

Darnell has moved on to the NASCAR Nationwide Series but Benson, who hails from nearby Grand Rapids, hopes to duplicate the 2006 win; his first in series competition.

Dennis Setzer is the only other previous winner expected to compete in the June 13 event.  Setzer won in 2005. The race marks the 10th the series has competed at Michigan International Speedway.


2009 Driver Standings
Rk Driver                  Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 1,056
2   Mike Skinner       1,029
3   Matt Crafton        1,027
4   Kyle Busch         1,000
5   Brian Scott            949
6   Todd Bodine          946
7   Terry Cook            920
8   Chad McCumbee   916
9   David Starr            903
10 Johnny Benson      887


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

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