Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Memphis

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

Ten races down, 15 to go in the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. The series is known for its championship battle going down to the wire, sometimes to the last lap in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This season appears no different than the those before. The points lead has changed for the fifth time following Milwaukee. Ron Hornaday Jr. takes over for the second time with a 36-point lead over Matt Crafton.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 22, 2009) – While he’ll argue that it’s too early to be predicting who will take home the 2009 title, it’s hard not to acknowledge that Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) is a title contender. The three-time series champion is coming off a dominating win at The Milwaukee Mile, where he nailed a perfect driver rating. He also bumped Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menard’s Chevrolet) from the top spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings.

The win Saturday was his 41st, which extends his hold on the most wins in the series. It also came on his birthday, the second time the veteran driver has won on his date of birth. He also celebrated his birthday in Victory Lane back in 1998 at Bristol Motor Speedway. He is the only driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to do so and one of only three NASCAR drivers to win on their birthday. Kyle Busch recently won on his birthday at Richmond (May 2, 2009) and Cale Yarborough, like Hornaday, accomplished the feat twice (1977 and 1983).

The series will head to a track this weekend where Hornaday also knows the way to Victory Lane. The driver and his No. 33 team are the defending race winners at Memphis Motorsports Park. Hornaday also won at Memphis in 1998.

This is the last year for the distinctive Elvis trophy before a new design is brought into the fold, and Hornaday would like to make sure he’s the one who takes it home. 

Count On Veteran Dennis Setzer As Contender At Memphis

One can’t talk about the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series without talking about veteran driver Dennis Setzer. Highly respected in the garage, Setzer looked as though he might not be back for another year at the end of last season. But when the season opener at Daytona rolled around, he was there.

Driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for MRD Motorsports since Atlanta, Setzer is showing he’s still a contender each week. He’s collected five top-10 finishes in the season’s 10 races so far. Two were runner-up results, one at Dover and the second last weekend at Milwaukee.

Setzer has competed in the series full time since 1999. In 277 starts, he has 18 wins, 80 top-five finishes and 153 top-10 finishes. He’s finished in the top ten in the standings eight times. Of those eight, he managed to finish second three years in a row. With another strong run at Milwaukee, he cracks the top 10 again moving from 14th to 10th in the standings.

As the series prepares to head to Memphis this weekend, Setzer is one driver to watch. In ten starts at the track, he has seven consecutive top-five finishes and has finished outside the top 10 only twice. Of his 18 wins in the series, 10 have come at half-mile-or-less tracks. Of the tracks on the current schedule, Setzer has 12 wins, including a 2001 win at Memphis.

Veteran Crew Chief Rick Ren Says Consistency Key For Hornaday’s Team

Veteran crew chief Rick Ren is just as competitive as his driver, Ron Hornaday Jr. And just like his driver, he’s keeping the entire season in perspective, not thinking too far ahead (i.e. an unprecedented fourth series title for Hornaday).

Here Ren tackles that subject and looks ahead to Memphis:

What do you think it will take to get Ron Hornaday Jr. that fourth championship?

“We have to stay consistent. Really the only two issues we’ve had this year (tire issue at Dover; oil pump belt in Texas) have been out of our control. They had nothing to do with the driver or the crew, but simply circumstance. I heard Jeff Gordon say one time that to win a championship, you have to have luck. I agree. Whether it is luck you have created or just racing luck, we will have to have some things just fall our way. If we maintain our consistency and continue to improve on pit road, then we should be right there when the checkers fall in Homestead.”

Do you do anything different to prepare for a track that you won at last year?

“No, I really prepare the same for every track. The thing winning the year before does for you is provide you with a great set of notes. However, each year is different and there are going to be different circumstances so you just have to work off of what you have.”

Can you take anything from the win this past weekend at Milwaukee and apply it to Memphis?

“I tried a few things in Milwaukee that I hope transfer over to Memphis, but we will just have to try them in practice to see if they work.”

Your driver at Milwaukee said he wanted another Elvis trophy. Does that put any pressure on you as a crew chief?

“No. I look at every race the same way. I want to go there, lead the most laps and most importantly, lead the last one.”

What about Memphis makes it challenging for a crew chief?

“Well, I have won this event twice, once with Travis Kvapil and last year with Hornaday. I think the hardest thing is finding the maximum amount of grip and keeping the truck from getting tight. If you can do that, you have a great shot at winning the race.”

Points Battle Tightens After Milwaukee

Ten races down, 15 to go in the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. The series is known for its championship battle going down to the wire, sometimes to the last lap in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

This season appears no different than the those before. The points lead has changed for the fifth time following Milwaukee. Ron Hornaday Jr. takes over for the second time with a 36-point lead over Matt Crafton.

Two former series champions looking to improve their luck and chances at another title sit third and fourth. Third-place Todd Bodine (No. 30 Copart Toyota) is 88 points out of first. The points difference is nothing to worry over, but Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota), sitting a mere point behind Bodine, is someone worth keeping an eye on.

Both Bodine and Skinner have wins so far this season. But consistency could be key. Crafton is winless since grabbing his first career win at Lowe’s in May last year.

From fifth place back, the points and stakes are tighter. David Starr (No. 24 Zachry Toyota) moves up a spot to fifth following a ninth-place finish over the weekend. Rookie Tayler Malsam (No. 81 One Eighty Toyota) continues to impress and moves up two places to sixth. He is 14 points behind Starr. Only 10 lie between Malsam and Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertson’s Toyota), who is seventh.

Scott can’t rest easy as the second-year driver only has a two-point cushion on veteran Terry Cook (No. 25 Cajun Industries/Harris Trucking Co. Toyota). Back in ninth, Rick Crawford barely hangs on to his spot. Crawford entered the top 10 following the race at Texas. He has just six points over Dennis Setzer, who is 10th.

Loop Data: Career Year Continues For Starr

David Starr quietly entered the top five in points with another top-10 finish last Saturday, his fourth in the last five races.

Now Starr heads to Memphis, a spot where he has had strong runs in his 12-year career. Currently, he sits 112 points behind fourth-place Mike Skinner – a coveted spot.

Starr’s highest career points finish was fourth, in 2006. That season, he had a win, six top fives, 12 tops 10s and an average finish of 11.0. Through 10 races this season, Starr has two top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 11.6. With 15 races remaining this season, Starr is on pace to match his 2006 numbers.

Another strong Memphis race would help that cause. In nine Memphis races, Starr has two top fives and four top 10s. But some of his strongest runs have come recently.

Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Starr has a Memphis Driver Rating of 93.5, an Average Running Position of 11.7, three Fastest Laps Run, a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of +39 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 79.5%.

Starr’s best Memphis performance might have come in last year’s fifth-place finish. In that event, he had a Driver Rating of 104.9 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 7.1 (fifth) and ran all but two of the 204 laps among the top 15.

Wayne’s Words: Memphis & The Elvis Trophy

“The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will make the trip to Memphis Motorsports Park this weekend.  This will be the 12th time for the trucks to compete at this .75-mile track and every time its been quite a show, one that goes down to the last few laps.

“The trophy is one of the most coveted on the circuit—a bronze Elvis Presley just like the statue that’s down on Beale Street. This could be the last chance to win this infamous trophy before a new one is created and everyone wants to win it.

“In the 11 previous races we’ve had three competitors figured out how to make it to Victory Lane more than once. One of those drivers is Ron Hornaday Jr., who said after his win last week in Milwaukee that he’d like to have a third Elvis trophy.

“The drivers and teams will have to face an ever-changing track. Qualifying takes place in the afternoon. The race gets underway as the sun sets and ends after dark.

“Memphis is a fun place to visit. The Tennessee fans are always great and I guarantee they’ll see a great race.” 
                 - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Memphis Motorsports Park is host to both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Fans can expect to see typical short-track racing, which means nothing less than exciting.

Rookie Battle

With ten races under their belts, the battle for the 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year honor is shaping up to be just that, a battle.

Tayler Malsam collected his third consecutive top-10 finish, his fifth so far for the season, at Milwaukee. The finish helps him hold his lead over Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins-Curb Records Chevrolet) who is seven points back in second.

None of the rookies can afford to have a bad week and be able to walk away with the rookie title. Only 10 points separate Sauter from James Buescher (No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford). In his first start at Milwaukee, Buescher brought home a fifth-place finish and was the highest-finishing rookie.

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Rk  Driver                  Points
1.   Tayler Malsam      112
2.   Johnny Sauter       105
3.   James Buescher     95
4.   Ricky Carmichael    61
5.   J.R. Fitzpatrick       60
6.   Brian Ickler             49
7.   Brent Raymer         36
8.   Chris Jones            26
9.   Chase Austin          16

Manufacturers' Standings

Toyota holds on to the lead in the 2009 Manufacturers’ Championship Standings. Looking ahead to Memphis, it’s Chevrolet that holds the most wins at the track with five. Toyota has two victories, as does Ford and Dodge.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings following Race 10 of 25 at the Milwaukee Mile:
Toyota:     78
Chevrolet: 67
Ford:        44
Dodge:     31

Up Next: Kentucky Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will have a couple weeks to prepare for the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, July 18.

The upcoming visit will be the tenth for the series. In the previous nine races, there has yet to be a repeat winner. Johnny Benson won last season. Other former winners include Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr., and Dennis Setzer.

No driver has managed to win from the pole. The furthest back one has started and won: Hornaday, winning in 2006 after starting 22nd.

Jack Roush and former team owner Bill Davis are tied for the most wins with two apiece.

Fast Facts

Next Race: 200 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts

The Place: Memphis Motorsports Park

The Date: Sat., June 27, 2009

The Time: 6 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 150 miles / 200 laps

TV: SPEED, 5:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on WGKX-FM 105.9

Track Layout: .75-mile Oval

2008 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.

2008 Polesitter: Johnny Benson

Schedule: Friday: Practice, 3 - 4:15 p.m. and  4:45 - 6 p.m.; Saturday: Qualifying, 1 p.m.

2009 Standings
Rk Driver                  Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 1,518
2   Matt Crafton        1,482
3   Todd Bodine        1,430
4   Mike Skinner       1,429
5   David Starr          1,317
6   Tayler Malsam     1,303
7   Brian Scott          1,293
8   Terry Cook          1,291
9   Rick Crawford      1,267
10 Dennis Setzer      1,261

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Keeping Pace

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




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