Keeping Pace

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News and Notes - New Hampshire

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

The race is in a sense a home race for Skinner’s team, Randy Moss Motorsports. Owner Randy Moss begins his 12th NFL season Monday night against the Buffalo Bills as the head wide receiver of the New England Patriots, which is based in Foxboro, Mass., only a two-hour drive from Loudon, N.H.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 14, 2009) – Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota) is getting hot, and it may be the perfect time for doing so. Skinner has won the last two races—at Iowa Speedway and Gateway International Raceway—and stands third in the championship points standings, only 16 points behind second-place runner Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet).

The Heluva Good! 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a good place for Skinner to continue his winning streak and that of Toyota, which has now captured four straight wins behind Skinner and Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort & Casino Toyota). None of Skinner’s 29 career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories have come at the 1.058-mile track, but all three of his wins this season have come on tracks at which he has never before triumphed. If he visits Victory Lane Saturday, it will make the third time he has won three consecutive races.

The race is also, in a sense, a home race for Skinner’s team, Randy Moss Motorsports. Owner Randy Moss begins his 12th NFL season Monday night against the Buffalo Bills as the head wide receiver of the New England Patriots, which is based in Foxboro, Mass., only a two-hour drive from Loudon, N.H.

Skinner, however, isn’t the only driver going for his third straight victory this weekend. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33  Copart Chevrolet) is shooting for his third consecutive victory at New Hampshire, after winning in 2007 and 2008. Both of those victories have come from the front row. Hornaday also won from the eighth position in 1996, the inaugural season in which the series visited New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In addition, two of his NHMS victories have come during championship seasons. Overall, he has 45 wins.

Busch returns to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time since winning at Chicagoland Speedway at the end of August. He also won at Bristol Motor Speedway the week before Chicagoland. Therefore, his start at New Hampshire this weekend gives him a chance to win his third series race in as many starts. Busch is second in the 2009 season victory total with four.

Battle On For Victories, Seventh In Points

Matt Crafton and Mike Skinner continue their strong battle for second in points, and Todd Bodine (No. 30  Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) are separated by only 17 points for the fifth position. However, there may not be any stronger battle for the seventh position, with five drivers separated by only 21 points. Even more interesting, all five are looking for their first victory of the season.

Leading the five-driver pack is David Starr (No. 24 Zachry/Harris Trucking Toyota), who is seventh in the standings with 2,310 points. Starr’s consistency—nine top 10s and only one race retirement—has him only three points ahead of Timothy Peters (No. 17 Strutmasters.com/Red Horse Racing Toyota), who has 2,307 points. Peters has similar statistics—10 top 10s but two DNFs. He moved up one position from last week’s standings. Starr is 62 points behind Braun for sixth.

Dropping to ninth was Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/International Truck Engine Ford), the 2005 race winner at New Hampshire and only eight points behind Starr and five behind Peters. While winless since 2006, Crawford has managed to finish in the top 10 in points the last three seasons.

Holding onto the final top-10 position is the series’ top rookie, Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins Chevrolet), who moved up two positions with his career-best finish of second Saturday at Gateway. Sauter, whose brother Jay won at NHMS in 1997, is only 13 points behind Starr.

Another rookie, Tayler Malsam (No. 81 One-Eighty Toyota), remains 11th in the points following a solid fifth-place result at Gateway. He is 21 points behind Starr with seven races remaining.

Terry Cook (No. 25 Cajun Industries/Harris Trucking Toyota) lost the most of any driver Saturday. A 21st-place finish dropped Cook from 10th to 13th in points, 54 points behind Sauter.

Quick Stats For New Hampshire

  • This will be the 14th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at New Hampshire. The track’s first appearance on the series schedule came in 1996.
  • Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Copart Chevrolet) leads all drivers with three victories, including two straight. In fact, Hornaday is the only driver with multiple series victories at New Hampshire. His victory in 2007 came at a track record average of 109.780 mph and was the largest-ever margin of victory, 4.211 seconds. His first victory in 1996 came on a last-lap pass, which was the only lap he led the entire race.
  • Jack Sprague holds the most pole positions with three. He also has a track record of seven top 10s.
  • Three races have been won by polesitters—Jack Sprague (2001), Jimmy Spencer (2003) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (2007).
  • Every race since 2000 has been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • The furthest back any driver has started from and won was 26th by Jay Sauter (1997).
  • There were a track record 17 lead changes in 2005. The following year, Johnny Benson led green-to-checkered flag.
  • The closest margin of victory was 0.189 seconds in 2002, with Terry Cook (No. 25 Cajun Industries/Harris Trucking Toyota) winning the race.
  • Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota) set the track qualifying record in 2006 at 129.626 mph.

Etc.

  • The driver points standings may have several battles for positions in the top 10, but in the team owner standings, it’s a little closer at the top. The No. 33 Copart Chevrolet, with Ron Hornaday Jr. behind the wheel and owned by Kevin Harvick Inc., sits first, but Billy Ballew Motorsports sits second in the standings, just 165 points out of the lead with its No. 51 Miccosukee Resort & Casino Toyota. KHI owner DeLana Harvick is tied for the most series victories with two (Kay Keselowski also has two), while Billy Ballew Motorsports has a best finish of third in the 2006 race with Kyle Busch.
  • Both of the lead teams also have second trucks entered for New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In a second KHI entry is J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 4 Equipment Express Chevrolet), the top-ranking rookie at Bristol Motor Speedway last month after starting 27th and finishing 11th. The following week, Fitzpatrick went on to win a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Montreal. He says, “We just want to finish races. I learned a lot of patience coming out of Bristol. I gained some confidence there and while in Montreal. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel of the No. 4 truck and continue to improve with the races we have left this season.”
  • Billy Ballew Motorsports also has more than just the No. 51 entered for this weekend. Aric Almirola (No. 15 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) has four top 10s for the team this season. Said Almirola, “Loudon was one of the first few tracks that I went to when I started racing in the NASCAR Camping World Series. I had the opportunity to race for the All-Star program back in 2005, and Loudon was the third of four tracks that I went to. We had a decent run that day, I think we started top-15 and raced to a top-10 finish. So, definitely if we can bring a good handling truck, we’ll have a good shot at another solid top-five finish and put ourselves in contention for a chance to go to Victory Lane.”
  • Other former NHMS winners entered include Dennis Setzer (No. 8 Chevrolet; 1999), Terry Cook (2002) and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/International Truck Engine Ford; 2005).
  • All seven drivers with wins this season are entered at NHMS (see back page for list).

Loop Data: Can Skinner, Crafton Continue To Chip Away?

There was only one strategy to employ for those chasing NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader Ron Hornaday Jr.: chip away.

Going into last Saturday’s race at Gateway, Hornaday held a 225-point lead, his largest of the season.

Now, after an accident-marred 17th-place finish, that cushion has been trimmed to 197.

Statistically speaking, the field may have a tough time continuing the “chip away” task this weekend at New Hampshire. Hornaday is strong there, owning the top statistics in the series.

Hornaday has won the last two New Hampshire races, and has finished in the top 10 in the last four.

Over that span, Hornaday has racked up series-best numbers in Driver Rating (132.3), Average Running Position (3.4), Fastest Laps Run (99), Laps in the Top 15 percentage (99.6), Laps Led (379) and fewest Times Passed (69).

The problem is, the two drivers immediately behind Hornaday – Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), second in points and the highest-ranking driver without a victory this season, and Mike Skinner – do not rank in the top five in Driver Rating at New Hampshire.

Skinner, third in the points, is the closest. At New Hampshire over the last four seasons, Skinner has a Driver Rating of 101.2 (sixth-best), an Average Running Position of 8.7 (sixth) and 69 Fastest Laps Run (second).

Crafton, who has finished in the top 10 at New Hampshire just once in the last four races there, has a Driver Rating of 94.6 (eighth), an Average Running Position of 11.2 (ninth) and 17 Fastest Laps Run (ninth).

Wayne’s Words: Returning To New England

“The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is excited to return to New England and New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, after a fun three-race swing through the Midwest.

“Racing in New England in September is always great, as the weather and leaves changing colors typically signifies the beginning of fall. Heading to New England also means we’ll have a chance to feast on some lobsters.

“Like our last two races at Iowa and Gateway, New Hampshire is a short track, but it offers unique features. The long straightaways and relatively flat surface produces interesting challenges for our drivers. They have to hit their braking points correctly going into the turns before hitting the gas early and hard heading down the straights.

“We have had some memorable races at New Hampshire, as well as some memorable restarts. The largest margin of victory we’ve had is under five seconds, and only three times has a polesitter taken the checkered flag first, which shows drivers from any starting position can run up front and win at New Hampshire. Also, all four manufacturers have tasted victory at the track.

“And we can’t forget Ron Hornaday Jr., though his season has already proven unforgettable. He will be going for his record fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at the Magic Mile, as well as his seventh on the season.

“As always, we’re looking forward to another weekend showcasing our style of racing in front of the New England fans and putting on a terrific race.” - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Rookie Battle Stays Close

After finishing a career-best second Saturday at Gateway International Raceway, Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins/Curb Records Chevrolet) improved his lead in the NASCAR Raybestos Rookie of the Year points standings.

Sauter was the top rookie for the third consecutive race and earned his third straight top-five finish in the process. With only seven races remaining in 2009, Sauter is nearing the Rookie of the Year honors over Tayler Malsam (No. 81 One-Eighty Toyota), who despite losing ground finished fifth at Gateway, his second top-five of 2009. The pair are separated by 16 points.

James Buescher (No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford) isn’t far behind, but can’t be complacent. He lies 36 points behind Sauter with 152 points, following a 23rd-place finish at Gateway after he was involved in an accident.

Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet) is fourth, with Brian Ickler (No. 15 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) fifth, up one spot from last week.

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Rk  Driver                   Points
1.   Johnny Sauter       188
2.   Tayler Malsam       172
3.   James Buescher    152
4.   Ricky Carmichael   120
5.   Brian Ickler              83 
6.   J.R. Fitzpatrick        79
7.   Brent Raymer          65
8.   Chris Jones             59
9.   Chase Austin          16
10. Ryan Hackett            6

Manufacturers' Standings

The gap continues to grow for Toyota in the standings after Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota) won his second consecutive race, which was also Toyota’s fourth straight. Toyota is also seeking a fifth consecutive triumph, which would mirror Chevrolet’s streak set earlier in the season with Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Copart Chevrolet). Toyota leads by 15 points, 138-123, and has 10 wins compared to Chevrolet’s seven.

Chevrolet has the advantage at NHMS with six wins versus Toyota’s two. Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/International Truck Engine Ford) gave Ford its last NHMS win in 2005, while Jimmy Spencer triumphed for Dodge last during the 2003 season.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings following Race 18 of 25 at Gateway International Raceway:

Toyota     138
Chevrolet 123
Ford         80
Dodge      55

Up Next: Las Vegas

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series shifts through the gears from the Midwest to the Northeast this weekend, and the Southwest next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 1.5-mile track hosts the series for the 13th time on Saturday, Sept. 26, for the Las Vegas 350.
Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota) won last year’s race at Las Vegas, tying him with Jack Sprague for most all-time—two. The race was the closest in series history at the track—0.020 seconds—as Skinner held off Erik Darnell. The top 20 trucks finished on the lead lap.

Fast Facts

Next Race:
Heluva Good! 200

The Place:
New Hampshire Motor Speedway

The Date:
Sat., September 19, 2009

The Time:
3 p.m. ET

Race Distance:
211.6 miles / 200 laps

TV:
SPEED, 3 p.m. ET

Radio:
MRN, PRN, SIRIUS XM.

Track Layout:
1.058-mile oval

2008 Winner:
Ron Hornaday Jr.

2008 Polesitter:
Johnny Benson

Schedule:
Friday: Practice, 10:30—11:50 a.m., 1:45—3 p.m. Saturday: Qualifying, 10:05 a.m.




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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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