Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes – Phoenix

Matt Crafton (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)
Matt Crafton (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), coming off a second-place finish last week at Texas, still has a chance to win his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title and deny Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) his fourth, heading into the final two races of the 2009 season.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The average temperature in Phoenix, Ariz., in November is traditionally in the 70s, but the heat may come from a different means this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, site of the Lucas Oil 150 and second-to-last race of the 2009 season.

Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) nearly picked up a historic NASCAR national series sweep last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and he is scorching into Phoenix on a hot streak.

While he came up just a few laps short of completing the weekend sweep, he did start off with his second consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. He led 54 of the 147 laps en route to his season-high seventh victory of year. The win also broke the six-win tie he held with series points leader Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet).

Busch’s series statistics to date are staggering. In addition to seven wins in 13 starts, he owns two poles, 10 top-five and 12 top-ten finishes, and an average finish of 3.8. While not in the running for the driver championship, Busch’s success has his No. 51 Billy Ballew Motorsports team in contention for the coveted owners’ championship.

The driver will no doubt continue to ride the wave of momentum into Phoenix this weekend as he attempts to keep the streak alive going for a third consecutive victory and his sixth in as many starts. Chances are good he can accomplish the feat. He made it to Victory Lane at the one-mile track in 2007. If he does win, Busch will become the sixth driver to nab three consecutive victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. It would be the eighth occurrence with Hornaday, Johnny Benson, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota), Todd Bodine (No. 30 Copart Toyota), and Greg Biffle previously scoring three-in-a-row.

Hornaday Racing Closer To Record-Setting Fourth Title

Phoenix International Raceway has been a good place for Ron Hornaday Jr., who looks to wrap up a record-setting fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship at the one-mile track Friday. Hornaday holds a 197-point advantage over Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) with just two races left in the season.

Hornaday knows the track well. In 1998, he captured the spring race at Phoenix, one of six wins en route to his second series title. A season later, he tamed the track again. In the 12 other starts for the veteran at Phoenix, he’s grabbed three top-five and six top-10 finishes.

And while he hasn’t won there since 1999, Hornaday wouldn’t mind joining his owner, Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Longhorn Chevrolet), and Jack Sprague as a three-time Phoenix winner.

A win would guarantee the series championship for Hornaday, though it’s not the only way. If he leaves Phoenix with a 195-point lead over second place, he clinches. Even if he doesn’t, his championship prospects look solid. Hornaday can clinch with a 22nd-place average finish over the final two races.

Loop Data: Hornaday’s Points Lead Safe At Texas

This past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) came close to pulling off an unprecedented triple-sweep, winning both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races before coming up short in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

This coming weekend at Phoenix presents another opportunity, and this time Busch is not alone. Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Longhorn Chevrolet) will also attempt the feat, and the statistics suggest that he may have a better shot at accomplishing it.

Statistically, the first leg of the triple will be the easiest to secure. Harvick is brilliant in the trucks at Phoenix. In his last four series visits to the track, Harvick has won three times.

Harvick, the defending champion of this race, registered strong stats in last season’s victory: a Driver Rating of 139.9, an Average Running Position of 2.5, 34 Fastest Laps Run and he ran all 150 laps among the top 15. He also was passed only three times while under green.

In his two Phoenix races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 (2007 and 2008), Harvick has a Driver Rating of 131.0, an Average Running Position of 3.4, 51 Fastest Laps Run and has run all 300 Laps in the Top 15.

Harvick’s Phoenix stats in the other two series are likewise strong. In NASCAR Nationwide Series competition, Harvick has a Driver Rating of 115.6. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he has a 99.0, which includes a perfect 150.0 in his 2006 win.

Crafton: “I Love Going To Phoenix”

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), coming off a second-place finish last week at Texas, still has a chance to win his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title and deny Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) his fourth, heading into the final two races of the 2009 season.

Crafton is also searching for his first victory of the season despite leading all drivers in top 10s with 19. He has been Hornaday’s lead challenger for the majority of 2009.

While Hornaday has two series victories at Phoenix, Crafton believes he can win at the one-mile oval. The Tulare, Calif., driver, who has one career victory and surpassed the 200-start marker earlier this season, could give Hornaday a run if he can finish well at Phoenix.

“All we’re looking for is wins right now,” Crafton said after the Texas race. “That’s all we want to do is go out there and win. I would have loved to have won the last three, but came up short.

“I love going to Phoenix,” he continued. “It’s probably one of my favorite race tracks we go to. I'm from the West Coast, have raced a lot there, and we’ll have a really good truck there. Hopefully we can knock us down a win there.”

Crafton’s best finish in eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Phoenix was third in 2004.

Owner Championship Tightens

While Ron Hornaday Jr. has a strong hold on the driver points standings, he and his team are watching over their shoulders in terms of the coveted owner’s title.

Billy Ballew Motorsports, on the strength of Kyle Busch’s Texas victory, is now only 75 points behind DeLana Harvick and Hornaday’s No. 33 team.

The advantage heading into Texas was only 100 points, after growing as large as 216 points following August's Lucas Oil 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Third is Thorsport Racing, which enters Phoenix 197 points behind KHI, with driver Matt Crafton.

Etc.

Phoenix International Raceway has hosted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 18 times in the past. Kevin Harvick and Jack Sprague lead all drivers with three victories.

The Phoenix polesitter has won a record five times, most recently in 2006 (Johnny Benson). The furthest back a winner has started was 16th in 1995 (Mike Skinner).

Four former Phoenix winners are entered this weekend—Ron Hornaday Jr., Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine (No. 30 Copart Toyota) and David Starr (No. 24 Zachry Toyota).

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Rodney Adkins-Curb Records Chevrolet), the leader in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year points standings, moved to seventh in the overall points ahead of Timothy Peters (No. 17 Strutmasters-Red Horse Racing Toyota) following Texas.

Four out of the last five races at Phoenix have been decided by less than a second (the closest by 0.297 seconds in 2004). The closest finish came in 2002, while Harvick averaged a race-record 108.014 mph to beat Ted Musgrave by only 0.022 seconds.

Bodine has averaged a seventh-place finish in five starts at PIR.

Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford) is making his 50th series start this weekend.

Making their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debuts this weekend are Brad Sweet (No. 90 Great Clips Toyota), Robbie Brand (No. 23 Lagunitas Ford) and Kevin Conway (No. 71 Extenze Racing Chevrolet).

Hornaday, Starr, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota) and Butch Miller (No. 08 Chevrolet) are the only drivers entered this weekend that competed in the first Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix in 1995.

Director’s Take: Wayne’s Words

“We’re heading back to where it all started. That’s right, 15 years ago, in 1995, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debuted at Phoenix International Raceway. Mike Skinner pulled off the win by less than a tenth of-a-second  over  Terry Labonte. Later that season, Skinner won the series first championship.

“Everyone will be watching two drivers who are having monumental seasons. Kyle Busch, the 2007 Phoenix winner, hasn’t lost a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in which he has competed since September. That’s five straight for him. Ron Hornaday (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) has triumphed twice there, and his 1998 win helped propel him to the championship. Obviously he is a contender for this year’s championship, but as last year’s title chase proved, anything can happen. He won the pole but wrecked and finished 25th to set up the closest points finish in series history. If Hornaday is going to take the title at Phoenix, he’ll have to keep out of trouble.

“Even though we compete at other one-mile tracks, the configuration is just a little different at Phoenix, making it unlike any other venue that we go to.

“The sharp Turn 2 unfolds into a dogleg, and drivers will have to navigate carefully through there. Also, the front straightaway is incredibly long, giving drivers a great opportunity to pass before heading into the tight Turn 1.

“In addition, the pit road is long, and actually extends into Turn 1. It’s a long way and drivers will need to be cautious and patient so that they don’t speed.

“This race is also short—150 miles—so there won’t be much room for error and time for holding back. That will most certainly affect race and pit strategy as well.

“Phoenix is definitely a racing town. So many great drivers have come out of Phoenix, and the fans have truly embraced NASCAR racing. We’re excited about our return and ready to put on another great race.” - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings
Rk Driver                   Points
1.  Johnny Sauter        223
2.  Tayler Malsam       178
3.  James Buescher    164
4.  Ricky Carmichael   133
5.  J.R. Fitzpatrick        97
6.  Brian Ickler              95
7.  Chris Jones             87
8.  Brent Raymer          79

Toyota Wants Third Phoenix Win

Having clinched the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship at Talladega Superspeedway, Toyota is simply looking to wrap up victories. Toyota is seeking its third win at Phoenix, while Chevrolet is going for 13 overall and third in-a-row.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings following Race 23 of 25 at Texas Motor Speedway:
Toyota     178
Chevrolet 154
Ford        101
Dodge       73

Series Leaders

Below are the leaders in several statistical categories:

 Points leader—Ron Hornaday Jr.
 Driver Rating—Ron Hornaday Jr. (123.8)
 Laps led—Ron Hornaday Jr. (1,091)
 Victories—Kyle Busch (7)
 Keystone Light Poles—
 Ron Hornaday Jr. and Colin Braun (4)
 Top-five finishes—Ron Hornaday Jr. (14)
 Top-10 finishes—Matt Crafton (19)
 Raybestos Rookie leader—Johnny Sauter
 Races led—Ron Hornaday Jr. (19)
 Average start—Ron Hornaday Jr. (4.1)
 Average finish—Ron Hornaday Jr. (6.5)
 Laps completed—Matt Crafton (3,720)

Up Next: Homestead-Miami Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wraps up its season once again at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday, Nov. 20 in Homestead, Fla. It marks the 14th time the track has hosted the series.

The 1.5-mile track has hosted the series once each season since 1996 and produced 12 victors in 13 races. The only driver to have won more than once is Todd Bodine (No. 30  Copart Toyota), who won for the first time in 2005 and returned to Gatorade Victory Lane again last season.

In addition to Bodine, other former winners expected at HMS include Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar International Truck Engine Ford).

Fast Facts

The Race: Lucas Oil 150

The Place:
Phoenix International Raceway

The Date:
Fri., Nov. 13, 2009

The Time:
6 p.m. MT

Race Distance:
150 laps / 150 miles

TV:
SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET

Radio:
MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on KGME-AM 910.

Track Layout:
1-mile oval

2008 Winner:
Kevin Harvick

2008 Polesitter:
Ron Hornaday Jr.

Schedule:
Thursday: Practice, 3:45-5 p.m. and 5:30-6:45 p.m.; Friday: Qualifying, 2:30 p.m.

2009 Standings

Rk Driver                  Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 3,657
2   Matt Crafton        3,460
3   Mike Skinner       3,302
4   Todd Bodine        3,150
5   Colin Braun         3,089
6   Brian Scott          3,050
7   Johnny Sauter      3,033
8   Timothy Peters     3,009
9   David Starr           2,987
10 Rick Crawford       2,928




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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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