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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes – Gateway

Six of the Madison, Ill., facility’s previous winners are series champions, including defending winner Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet). The six — Hornaday, Johnny Benson, Greg Biffle, Todd Bodine (No. 30 Ventrillo Toyota), Ted Musgrave and Jack Sprague — own all but three of series’ 14 season titles.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There’s never been a first-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner at Gateway International Raceway and Friday’s Copart 200 isn’t likely to crown one.

The 1.25-mile track is that difficult.

Six of the Madison, Ill., facility’s previous winners are series champions, including defending winner Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet). The six — Hornaday, Johnny Benson, Greg Biffle, Todd Bodine (No. 30 Ventrillo Toyota), Ted Musgrave and Jack Sprague — own all but three of series’ 14 season titles.

Gateway’s 10 winners (in the track’s first 11 events) boast a combined 159 victories. Musgrave is the only driver to win the Copart 200 twice.

“A driver has to be up on the wheel the whole race,” said David Starr (No. 24 Zachry/Harris Trucking Toyota), who won NASCAR’s last multiple green-white-checkered race at the track in 2004. “The guys who are winners at Gateway are winners because they’re the best (drivers).”

 The track’s degree of difficulty is compounded by a pair of tight turns, one and two, coupled with the more sweeping third and fourth corner.

“That makes it definitely one of the tougher ones — Daytona being the hardest,” said Benson, currently a SPEED TV analyst and the 2007 Copart 200 winner. “People who win there have an understanding of compromise.”

Bodine, the Gateway winner in his 2006 title year, likes the track because there’s no one right way around.

“You can make your truck do different things,” he said, “but you’ve got to have everything right — strategy and pit stops. And the fewer trucks you have to pass, the better off you are.”

Starr agrees. “It’s a driver’s race track. A driver can really help the truck if it’s not handling well,” he said.

Cook, who won in 2002, likens a lap at Gateway to laps at two different tracks. “One and two demand patience and finesse while three and four you barrel around them like there’s no tomorrow,” he said. “Mentally, you have to approach each one differently.”

That, explains Cook, is why the leaders often separate themselves from the field.

“You’re having to do different things twice a lap and that takes a balancing act,” said Cook. “And you’re working without a net.”

Bodine agrees that fast at Gateway means being on the edge from start to finish.

“You can have one problem and make one mistake and end up wrecking,” he said.

Iowa Winner Skinner, Hornaday Chasing The ‘Big 5-0’

Roush Fenway Racing won its historic 50th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race earlier this summer. Now it’s a contest between Mike Skinner (No. 5 PC*MILER Navigator Toyota) and Ron Hornaday Jr. to see who’ll reach the ‘Big 5-0’ next.

Skinner took the biggest step Sept. 5 at Iowa Speedway where he notched his 48th Keystone Light Pole before winning the inaugural Lucas Oil 200. The victory was Skinner’s seventh in a debut race but first since 1995 when he became the series’ initial champion.

Hornaday, a six-time winner with eight races remaining in the 2009 season, has reached 45 career victories. Getting to the No. 50 plateau isn’t a stretch given the Palmdale, Calif., veteran’s five-race win streak of earlier this summer.

While Hornaday’s 225-point championship lead over Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) is unprecedented at this stage of the season — no driver has led by more than 193 points after 17 races — Skinner carved 37 points off his previous deficit. He’s 281 points behind in third after giving Randy Moss Motorsports its second win.

Crew Chief Starland Doubts Notes From Previous Gateway Races Are Useful

Kevin “Cowboy” Starland has challenged Gateway International Raceway literally since the first time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series took to the 1.25-mile track. He previously worked for Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle and now calls the shots for Circle Bar Racing and the No. 14 International Truck Engine Ford driven by veteran Rick Crawford. Crawford will make his 12th consecutive start at Gateway, hoping to improve upon a pair of fourth-place finishes. His truck was a spectacular DNF in 2004, getting turned on its side exiting Turn 2 and scrubbing tire tracks onto the wall halfway down the backstretch.

What’s more important, the driver or the crew chief?
“Oh, it’s always the driver. Gateway’s a unique place; the corners are really different. It takes a guy who understands you have to give up a little bit to have one end better than the other. It’s hard to get both ends right to get the truck to drive good. It’s better to have a good driver than a good crew chief.”

You can’t shift gears at Gateway any longer. Does that make it harder or easier to set up your truck?
“It makes it more difficult because it makes you tighter off of (Turn) two. We used to shift gears there so we could downshift getting into (Turn) one and drive off of two better so you wouldn’t have to compromise so much. It’s harder.”

Does the crew chief consult his notes and give the driver a setup he’ll have to use for 160 laps?
“The way things are now, you might as well not even take notes. It changes too much from year to year. You just have to go off of what you’ve done this year; what works with the new tires. Notes anymore are no good.”

What is your greatest memory of racing at Gateway?
“Winning. That’s always the best memory. We won it here with (Greg) Biffle in 1999. Winning’s the best memory.”

How about with Rick?
“We’ve had good runs here. Circumstances haven’t played out right so maybe this year we’ll have a good memory when we get him the win there.”

You could have won in 2004.
“Yeah; you’ve got to keep the truck on the black part, not driving on the wall.”

Etc.

  • There have been seven consecutive different winners of the Copart 200 since Terry Cook’s victory in the 2002 race. Four former Gateway winners are expected to compete this week: Cook, Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008), Todd Bodine (2006) and David Starr (2004).
  • Just one Copart 200 winner — Starr — started worse than eighth. Starr qualified 14th.  Ted Musgrave was the last pole winner to win the race, leading a track record 158 laps in 2005. Starr led the fewest laps in 2004 — just the last one.
  • Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) and Timothy Peters (No. 17 Strutmasters/Red Horse Racing Toyota) continue to climb the points chart. Braun’s third-place Iowa finish elevated him to a career-high ranking of sixth. Peters, who finished eighth in the Lucas Oil 200, shows seventh and among the top 10 for the first time since the season’s fourth race.
  • Aric Almirola (No. 15 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) had a career night in Iowa, his runner-up finish to Mike Skinner improving by one spot his previous best at Kentucky Speedway in July. The Tampa, Fla., driver posted his sixth consecutive top-10 finish in a fill-in role at Billy Ballew Motorsports. He’ll go for No. 7 — and perhaps a first victory — this week at Gateway.
  • Todd Kluever, the NCWTS 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, returns to series competition at Gateway behind the wheel of Dave Malcolmson’s No. 8 Chevrolet.  Kluever posted a trio of second-place finishes for Roush Fenway Racing in his only season.
  • The Copart 200 is the next-to-final stand-alone race of the 2009 season. The stand-alone phase of the schedule wraps up Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Loop Data: Hornaday Can Be Caught But Odds Are Against His Rivals Making Gains At Gateway

A 225 point-deficit cannot be erased in a day.

Everyone trying to catch points leader Ron Hornaday Jr. must live the clichéd “one race at a time.” They need to chip away.

With eight races remaining in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, there’s ample opportunity to do just that.

This weekend’s race at Gateway is one of those chances, but probably not the best.

Hornaday has been strong at Gateway, racking up some of the top statistics in the series after winning there last year and finishing second in 2007.

Hornaday owns series-best marks in Driver Rating (116.1), Average Running Position (6.6), Fastest Laps Run (73) and Laps Led (207) since the inception of Loop Data in 2005.

Those closest to Hornaday don’t come close to matching those stats. Second-place Matt Crafton has a Gateway Driver Rating of 83.2 after finishing in the top 10 only once in the past four races. Third-place Mike Skinner is closer, with a Driver Rating of 94.9. Skinner finished seventh at Gateway last season and has led laps in each of the last two Gateway races.

Probably the driver with the best shot at keeping Hornaday from Victory Lane is Todd Bodine, who sits fifth in the points, 478 points out.

Bodine has four starts at Gateway, all of them top-10 finishes and three of them top fives. In that span, Bodine has an average finish of 4.0, a Driver Rating of 110.3, an Average Running Position of 8.3, 47 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 86.4% and a series-best Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of +120.

Wayne’s Words: Gateway Wraps 2009 Swing Through Midwest

“Midwestern fans have been in love with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from the very beginning back in 1995. This week’s race at Gateway International Raceway wraps up the 15th year our teams have competed in the nation’s heartland and we continue to be pleased at the reception the fans continue to give the series.

“We had great inaugural events at Chicagoland and Iowa and this week the teams return to a more comfortable zone. Most have competition notes from Gateway since this marks our 12th consecutive year at the St. Louis-area facility.

“Gateway’s layout is different, to say the least  — tight turns at one end and sweeping turns at the other. The pit road entrance is unique. If there are green flag stops, the drivers who can best navigate the section of pit road from entrance to the first speed line definitely have an advantage.

“Gateway and Martinsville Speedway have one thing in common. Brakes — big brakes — are critical at both tracks. A good handling truck is easy on the brakes. One that doesn’t handle so well means the driver will probably overuse the brakes. Not good.”  - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Sauter, Shear Record Second Straight Top-Five Performance

Veteran crew chief Joe Shear Jr. joined Johnny Sauter’s No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Adkins/Curb Records Chevrolet team at Chicagoland Speedway and the pair raced to a fifth-place finish.

They did it again at Iowa Speedway, even finishing a position ahead of teammate and championship contender Matt Crafton.

Sauter, who extended his lead in Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings to 13 points over Tayler Malsam (No. 81 One-Eighty Toyota), raced Ron Hornaday Jr. hard for the No. 4 position during the waning stages of the Lucas Oil 200 before settling for fifth.

The freshman driver ran as high as third.

Malsam, however, wasn’t to be denied a solid run at the .875-mile track, finishing 10th. The Washington competitor posted his eighth top-10 finish of the season. Two other freshman drivers, Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet) and James Buescher (No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford) finished among the top 15.

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Rk  Driver                   Points
1.   Johnny Sauter        176
2.   Tayler Malsam        163
3.   James Buescher     151
4.   Ricky Carmichael    112
5.   J.R. Fitzpatrick         79  
6.   Brian Ickler               74
7.   Brent Raymer           59
8.   Chris Jones              59

Manufacturers’ Standings

The memory of Ron Hornaday Jr.’s five-race win streak is just that — a memory — at least as far as the NASCAR Camping World Truck’s Manufacturers’ Championship is concerned.

Hornaday’s run erased a points lead Toyota held for most of the early season, but the latter truck maker has bounced back nicely with three consecutive trips to Victory Lane; two by Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) and the latest by Mike Skinner.

Chevrolet, in fact, was the No. 3 finishing manufacturer at Iowa. Toyota’s lead is 12 points with eight races remaining.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers’ Championship Standings following Race 17 of 25 at Iowa Speedway:

Toyota    129
Chevrolet 117
Ford         76
Dodge      52

Up Next: New Hampshire

Ron Hornaday Jr. became New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s first double winner in 2007, breaking a streak (he started) of 11 different winners at the 1.058-mile track.

And, a year ago, he became NHMS’ first to win three times and first to score consecutive victories.

Next week Hornaday will attempt to join a very small group of competitors to win three straight races at the same track. Brendan Gaughan holds the record of four straight at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnny Benson (Milwaukee), Ted Musgrave (Auto Club Speedway) and Jack Sprague (Phoenix) have won three consecutive races at current series tracks.

Fast Facts

Next Race:
Copart 200

The Place: Gateway International Raceway

The Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Time: 1:30 p.m. CT

Race Distance:  200 miles / 160 laps

TV: SPEED, 2 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on KSD-FM 93.7.

Track Layout: 1.25-mile Oval

2008 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.

2008 Polesitter: Dennis Setzer

Schedule: Friday: Practice, 2:45 — 4:15 p.m. and Final Practice 6:15 — 7:15 p.m. ; Saturday: Qualifying, 10:05 a.m.

2009 Standings
Rk Driver                  Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 2,753
2   Matt Crafton        2,528
3   Mike Skinner       2,472
4   Brian Scott          2,292
5   Todd Bodine        2,275
6   Colin Braun         2,261
7   David Starr          2,195
8   Rick Crawford      2,162
9   Timothy Peters    2,156
10 Terry Cook          2,145


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

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