Atlanta pre-season test notes

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Drivers Brave The Weather In Atlanta Test Gunning For The Repeat: Jack Sprague Wants To Start This Season Just Like The Last Home Sweet Home: Joey Clanton In Familiar Territory HAMPTON, Ga. (Jan. 23, 2008) --...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Drivers Brave The Weather In Atlanta Test

Gunning For The Repeat: Jack Sprague Wants To Start This Season Just Like The Last
Home Sweet Home: Joey Clanton In Familiar Territory

HAMPTON, Ga. (Jan. 23, 2008) -- Under grey winter skies, 27 teams in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series took to the track Tuesday for Round Two of preseason testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) finished a rain-shortened Day One atop the chart with a best speed of 171.271 mph.

Three Toyota drivers, former Atlanta race winner Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), Terry Cook (No. 60 Wyler Racing Toyota), and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) ended their first day not far behind the defending series champion.

At a media reception held Tuesday night in downtown Atlanta, Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Racing Ford) discussed his thoughts on the day of testing. "We brought two trucks down here, each with a slightly different body style. We've been a little loose since we've been here, but we're hearing that up and down the garage. Right now we're trying to adjust to the harder tire compound and the new motor rule."

Crawford also said, "With the new tapered spacer, the trucks run pretty much wide open around here, but in race conditions there will be some lifting and that will put the racing into the hands of the drivers a little more than in the past.

"I don't think these changes will affect the style of racing we see around here. I'm sure in fact it will be just as exciting for the fans."

Crawford's crew chief, Kevin "Cowboy" Starland, echoed those comments during a brief break Wednesday afternoon. "We came to Atlanta to focus on two things. The first is a new tire compound that is slightly harder than what we ran here last year and the second is the effect of the tapered spacer that we're running at all of the tracks this year," he said.

"We've spent this second day, where we have actually had a decent amount of track time, working on the trucks and finding out what they need with the new tire and motor configuration. We are hoping what we learn here this week will carry over to some of the other faster tracks and intermediate tracks like California Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Michigan International Speedway."

Director Auton Satisfied ... As the overcast skies opened to bright sun Wednesday afternoon, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton said, "Now that the weather has changed, teams are really getting some good data on the new engine package which the trucks will run this season. With approximately 70 horsepower and 500 rpm (less), they are receiving good feedback from their drivers on how the truck compares to running here last season.

"The teams are having a chance to get a good fuel run in, which allows them to see what the new, reduced fuel cell size will do to their mileage, in addition to the aero underneath the truck." Vehicles in all three NASCAR national series will carry roughly 17.75-gallon fuel cells in 2008 -- a reduction of 4.25 gallons from a year ago in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Auton expects this year's racing to be just as competitive as in previous years. "It should be an exciting season if testing is any indication how the different makes have done with both the Daytona test and the testing here," said Auton.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway March 7 for the American Commercial Lines 200.

Home Sweet Home ... Atlanta testing was a trip home for Georgia native Joey Clanton, who will drive the Roush Fenway Racing No. 09 Zaxby's Ford during the 2008 season. The track is familiar territory to Clanton who grew up in nearby Tyrone. He cut his racing teeth racing Super Late Models and Legends cars around Atlanta Motor Speedway and other prestigious tracks throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

"I'm glad to be back here at Atlanta Motor Speedway," said Clanton. "I've got a great group of guys behind me who are committed and focused on winning. This is my home track. There have always been great opportunities here at Atlanta and I'm hoping to win one for the home crowd."

This year marks Clanton's first full season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He finished third in Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings in 2007.

Fellow Georgia native Andy Lally (No. 7 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet) will chase rookie of the year honors in 2008. Lally, who hails from Dacula, will head to Daytona Beach, Fla. this weekend to compete in the 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona for The Racer's Group.

TRG has found tremendous success in the Rolex and Lally hopes this weekend his team can add some additional hardware to the collection.

Gunning for the Repeat ... Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) wants to start this season just as he did the last, and that's in Victory Lane. In a three-wide dash to the checkered flag, Sprague won the 2007 Chevy Silverado 250 by 0.031 seconds over Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles/Exide Batteries Toyota).

The veteran driver knows the significance of a win at Daytona. "To win at Daytona is something that very few people get to do, something that I really thought I never would do. It was certainly a victory I never thought I would achieve just because it is so difficult to win (at Daytona). It is one of the hardest I think to win in anybody's career," said Sprague.

Now with a new team, Kevin Harvick Inc., the three-time series champion also would like to find himself atop the championship standings at the conclusion of this season. He finished ninth in 2007. "This series is getting more competitive and so hard to win," said Sprague. "It seems though at the end of the year the older crowd prevails and wins the championships."

"We are going to do whatever we have to do to get the best finishes this year and be the ones standing at the top in the end."

Pit Stops ... By late afternoon during Day Two's testing, Bodine had posted the best lap at 31.494 seconds, 171.461 mph. For Bodine to have a good day at Atlanta is no surprise. Bodine has eight wins on mile and a half tracks, including one at Atlanta. ... The announcement came down Wednesday afternoon that former series champion Ted Musgrave would be driving the No. 59 Team ASE Toyota Tundra fielded by HT Motorsports in 2008 ... The series' third test session is scheduled for March 12-13 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. ...

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Andy Lally , Joey Clanton
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , TRG Motorsports