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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes – Martinsville

With three wins so far this season, Mike Skinner sits third in points as the trucks return to action this weekend.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 19, 2009) – This Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway will mark Mike Skinner’s (No. 5 PC*MILER Navigator Toyota) 200th series start. Chances are pretty good the veteran driver could end that milestone start in a place he knows quite well: Victory Lane.

Skinner has three wins at Martinsville, tying him with Dennis Setzer (No. 8 Chevrolet) for the most victories at the track. Skinner’s first win came back in 1996. In 2007, he swept both races.

“I love Martinsville. It’s very, very unique and just an awesome place. I love the fans up there and the whole setting,” said Skinner. “Short-track racing is like drag racing with two hard, sharp corners, so I always enjoy going to Martinsville.”

For the 1995 series champion, three appears to be his magic number these days. In addition to his three wins, in 13 starts at the .526-mile track Skinner has collected three top-five and three top-10 finishes.

With three wins so far this season, Skinner sits third in points as the trucks return to action this weekend.

“I really look forward to going back this weekend with Eric (Phillips, crew chief),” said Skinner. “We went there for the first time together in the spring race and finished third. I feel like we’re a better team now than we were then.”

As for his third spot in the standings, Skinner knows his team is capable of contending but it’ll be a fight to the end. “Martinsville and Talladega can be wildcards here in these final five races. Every track we go to you can be victim of circumstance, but these two definitely open up the opportunity. We’re fighting to stay in the top three. If Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) has a hiccup or two, then we can feasibly get second. We’re going to try to protect where we are right now.”

Ron Hornaday Jr. Hoping To Finally Grab A Win At Martinsville

Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) has been the driver to beat this season. He has six wins so far and if trouble doesn’t strike his team, Hornaday could very well be on his way to claiming a record fourth series championship.

But he’s taking it one race at a time. If you ask him right now what he really wants, his answer would be a win at Martinsville Speedway.

In 14 starts at the historic short track which has hosted the series in all 15 seasons since 1995, Hornaday has never made it to Victory Lane. The current points leader has five top-five and three top-10 finishes. He had to settle for second in March in the Kroger 250, his best finish out of the 14 starts. The race winner, by the way, was his boss, Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Bounty Chevrolet).

“I’ve been coming here for a while now and for some reason, we just can’t seem to break through,” said Hornaday. “It would mean a lot to win at Martinsville. It’s one of those tracks we’ve been coming to since the truck series started in 1995, and to finally add my name to the list of legends who have won there would mean a lot to me.”

A repeat of this race a year ago is something the driver and his crew chief, Rick Ren, are definitely looking to avoid. After starting from the pole, Hornaday led 154 laps before he ran out of fuel. It was a tough break for the driver and his team who were left with a 29th-place finish.

Hornaday’s misfortune also played a factor in the championship battle. He entered the race 39 points ahead of Johnny Benson. On Lap 155, Benson passed Hornaday’s sputtering Chevy and went on to win the race. That win also gave the eventual champion the points lead.

Loop Data: Momentum Swinging Both Ways For Johnny Sauter

This weekend at Martinsville Speedway should be an interesting case study of in-season momentum vs. track-history momentum.

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins/Curb Records Chevrolet) will be the test subject.

Sauter comes into Martinsville as one of the hottest drivers in the series, winning his first series race, at Las Vegas, and finishing in the top five in each of the last five races. Over that that span, he has an Average Running Position of 6.4, a Driver Rating of 112.3, 97 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 96.9%.

Those numbers lie on the complete opposite side of the statistical spectrum as Sauter’s numbers at Martinsville.

Martinsville, in terms of Driver Rating, is Sauter’s worst track. He has a rating of just 51.0, and has yet to crack the top 20 in any of his three previous Martinsville starts in the series.

In Sauter’s three starts there (2006, 2008 and in March of this season), Sauter has an average finish of 24.0, an Average Running Position of 28.8 and has run only one lap in the top 15.

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Bounty Chevrolet), on the other hand, has been strong at Martinsville (and in the three series races he has run this season, for that matter). In his four Martinsville races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Harvick has a Driver Rating of 112.0, an Average Running Position of 6.0 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 93.1.

This will be Harvick’s fourth series race of the season. In the first three events, he finished second (at Atlanta), first (at Martinsville) and third (at New Hampshire). Not surprisingly, he notched a stellar Driver Rating of 131.8 and an Average Running position of 3.7 in those events.

Atop The Pit Box With Red Horse Racing’s Chad Kendrick

This weekend’s trip to Martinsville Speedway will be a little different for crew chief Chad Kendrick. In March, Kendrick and his driver, Timothy Peters (No. 17 Strutmasters/Red Horse Racing Toyota), were with Danville-based Premier Racing. Working with fewer resources, they were doing a lot with a little, sitting in the top 10 in points three races into the season.

Fast forward to June. Peters makes the move on the opportunity to run with Red Horse Racing, taking Kendrick with him.

Since their move to Red Horse Racing just before the Michigan race, the team has collected three top-five and six top-10 finishes. Peters also grabbed his first career pole at Nashville.

Kendrick discusses the season and what they expect heading back to Martinsville:

Q: What do you expect at Martinsville?
“Earning a top 10 at Martinsville in the spring would have felt like a win for us. Now we feel like a trip to Victory Lane is not only possible, we feel like it’s imminent for this team. At this point we should be earning top-10s each and every week so our goals have changed. Now our goals are to lead laps and win races and we feel like that is just as realistic for us now as those early goals were.”

Q: What is the biggest change from March to October?

“Timothy’s confidence level has changed dramatically since the last Martinsville race. We’ve earned three top fives since then and we both feel like a win is more possible than ever. I also feel more confident with myself. I trust my decisions and my own judgment more than I did back then.”

Q: What would a win mean to both of you?
“When I came to Red Horse Racing, I walked in my office and took out a calendar and wrote down all the rest of the races for the year. I put a big circle around Martinsville because that is the race Timothy and I want to win the most. We both really want this win and we both think we should win at Martinsville. At this point I think we would be disappointed with anything other than a win. It would be an amazing feeling to be in Victory Lane at our home track.”

Q: Your team has climbed from 17th to ninth in the standings. What is it like to make that move?
“At the start of the year we felt like with the combination of me and Timothy, that we would have no problem earning a top-10 points position. After the season started, we realized that wasn’t going to be possible with our resources.
“When we came to Red Horse I was hopeful that we could make up the ground we lost, but wasn’t sure it would really happen. I am thrilled that we climbed all those positions but that means the goal has changed again. Now we don’t want to just finish in the top 10 in points, we want to finish in the top five in points. Timothy and I both know that means we need to finish in the top five each of the last five races, but we are committed to the goal.”

Q: What has helped your team progress?
“Our communication gets better the longer we are together and that obviously helps performance. Probably the biggest thing that propels us to do well is the support we have behind us. Rick Gay and Tom DeLoach give us both a ton of support that only helps build our confidence. If we are struggling, I can count on Rick to help us. If we need something to better our program, Tom will give it to us. Everyone in the shop is counting on us and that gives us even more motivation to do well.”

HT Motorsports Still Looking For That First Win

Martinsville-based HT Motorsports has proven it’s competitive. Throughout this season, the team’s veteran drivers, David Starr (No. 24 Zachry Toyota) and Terry Cook (No. 25 Harris Trucking/Cajun Industries Toyota), have been in and out of the top 10 not only at the end of races, but in the standings as well.

Competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2001, the team is still looking for that first win. As a former winner at Martinsville, Starr thinks he can be the one to deliver that victory for owner Jim Harris and his team.

“We go into this race just like we would the rest of the year. We are going for the win. At this point for us we don’t have anything to lose championship-wise, so we don’t have to watch our points; we can just go for it,” said Starr.

“The only difference in Martinsville for us to win there is the hometown correlation between Jim (Harris) and our team calling this track our home base.  It would just be really great to get Jim his first win there.”

“The last three weeks off have been beneficial for us to do some testing, and get our trucks prepared for the final five races this year,” said Starr. “We can win; I have confidence in this team.”

In addition to his 2006 win, Starr has two top-five and four top-10 finishes. He is currently 10th in the standings.

Cook has two top-five and five top-10 finishes at the .526-mile track and has led 190 laps. He sits 13th in the standings, 107 points of his teammate.

Director’s Take: Wayne’s Words

“I think I can speak for everyone in the garage when I say we’re looking forward to heading to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Not only do we get back to racing, but it’s short-track racing. This series was founded on short tracks and always seems to showcase just what it’s known for – tough racing.

“Martinsville Speedway is special to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series because it’s one of four tracks on our current schedule to have hosted this series since its inaugural 1995 season. It’s also only one of two tracks to host the trucks twice in the same season.

“It’s pretty fitting we pick back up racing at Martinsville after a three-week break. Martinsville was the first short-track race this season back in March, and it will mark the last as it kicks off the final five-race stretch to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Martinsville will present the teams with different factors from the other four tracks that we will go to finish out the year. One of the biggest things teams will have to focus on will be brakes. A team may have a great-running truck but if you don’t have the right brake set-up, it could spoil your day.

“I like to say this track is like two drag strips with two corners. Drivers will have their hands full trying to keep their fenders on.

“Fans will need to keep an eye on Ron Hornaday Jr. For whatever reason, it’s a track he has yet to win at. Last year, he ran out of fuel which opened the way for Johnny Benson to make the pass and grab the win. It might have had an impact on the championship. Hornaday had the lead going into the race and Benson left with it.

“So grab a hot dog and get ready. I think we’re in for some good short-track racing.”
- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

NASCAR Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings:

Rk Driver                   Points
1.  Johnny Sauter        210
2.  Tayler Malsam       175
3.  James Buescher    156
4.  Ricky Carmichael   127
5.  Brian Ickler              95 
6.  J.R. Fitzpatrick        88
7.  Chris Jones             66
8.  Brent Raymer          65

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers’ Standings following Race 20 of 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Toyota holds the lead as the series returns to action at Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Mike Skinner has delivered three of Toyota’s five wins at the short track. Chevrolet has the most wins, with six.

Be sure to cast your vote for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver. Polls will close Oct. 31. Since opening July 6, more than 25,000 votes have been cast.

Toyota:     151
Chevrolet: 138
Ford:         87
Dodge:      64

Up Next: Talladega Superspeedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will go from short-track racing at Martinsville to the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway for the Mountain Dew 250 fueled by Fred’s on Saturday, Oct. 31.

The race will mark the series’ fourth visit to the  famed 2.66-mile track. Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) will be gunning for a third win in-a-row. Mark Martin won the series’ inaugural race in 2006.

Chances are good Bodine could wind up in Talladega’s Gatorade Victory Lane. The 2006 series champion kicked off this season in Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Lane. The win was his second in-a-row at Daytona.

Fast Facts

Next Race:
Kroger 200

The Place:
Martinsville Speedway

The Date:
Sat., October 24, 2009

The Time:
1 p.m. ET

Race Distance:
200 laps / 105.2 miles

TV:
SPEED, 12:30 p.m. ET

Radio:
MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on WZBB-FM 99.9

Track Layout:
.526-mile oval

2008 Winner:
Johnny Benson

2008 Polesitter:
Ron Hornaday Jr.

Schedule:
Friday: Practice, 10-11:20 a.m. and 1:10-2:00 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:40 p.m.

2009 Standings

Rk Driver                  Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 3,210
2   Matt Crafton        3,013
3   Mike Skinner       2,955
4   Brian Scott          2,714
5   Johnny Sauter     2,647
6   Todd Bodine        2,645
7   Colin Braun         2,632
8   Rick Crawford      2,576
9   Timothy Peters    2,573
10 David Starr           2,552


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

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