Atlanta: Series round two preview

Proud Of His Roots, Peters Wants To Bring Title South The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is one of NASCAR's three national series, but it still projects an "outsider" identity. All but one of its champions -- Bobby Hamilton -- hail from ...

Proud Of His Roots, Peters Wants To Bring Title South

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is one of NASCAR's three national series, but it still projects an "outsider" identity.

All but one of its champions -- Bobby Hamilton -- hail from beyond NASCAR's traditional Southeastern base. Californian Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) perhaps most reflects the series' alternative roots. Hornaday leads in championships (four) and victories (45).

Timothy Peters (No. 17 K&N Toyota), the surprise points leader heading to this week's Atlanta 200, hopes to engineer a geographical shift. Peters, from Providence, N.C., climbed the traditional NASCAR ladder winning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships at a trio of short tracks south of the Mason- Dixon line.

His heroes growing up included, naturally, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.

"Earnhardt Sr. was a tremendous ambassador for the sport," said Peters. "I liked Darrell's driving style and the way the Tide car looked. He was aggressive and smart and always seemed to run well."

In effect, Peters is racing for his fellow North Carolinians -- some of NASCAR's most devoted fans.

"The year that Bobby (Hamilton) won, everything seemed to fall into place," he said. "I'm hoping the way our year started that it could be one of those Cinderella seasons for us. I would love to add my name to the list of southern drivers that have achieved that goal."

Peters hasn't done especially well at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Of course, his record there isn't extensive -- just three starts with a best finish of 15th.

He believes Saturday's race will show great improvement, in part thanks to tutoring by Hamilton, for whom he drove in 2005-06.

"He taught me how to use multiple grooves to make the truck run better," said Peters. "You can run your truck high or low or in between. "

Peters has enjoyed the glow of the past couple of weeks celebrating his Daytona victory. But that was then; this is now.

"It's a very cool feeling being the points leader of the series but Atlanta changes the game," said Peters. "This is when (it shows) you have it or you don't have it. It's privileged to be in this position, but we also know it's our job to stay up there the entire season."

Pair Of Bodine Brothers Line Up For Atlanta 200

It's been nearly six years since brothers Todd and Geoff Bodine have taken the green flag in the same NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. They look to do it for a sixth time in the series this week.

Todd (No. 30 Toyota) won the 2006 Atlanta 200. Geoff, who'll drive the No. 95 Team Gill Racing Dodge, has 21 starts (the last in 2004) and a trio of second-place finishes. Bodine has spent the past several weeks at the Winter Olympics, overseeing the fortunes of his Bo-Dyn bobsleds and the Gold Medal U.S. Bobsled team.

"It's going to be like old times, you know?" said younger brother Todd. "He's looking forward to it. Once a racer, always a racer. It's giving him an opportunity to have some fun."

Said Danny Gill, whose Dodge (numbered 46 with Dennis Setzer at the wheel) finished third at Daytona, "We have worked really hard to prepare him a piece so that his return will be a competitive one. With his record (four NASCAR Sprint Cup top fives ) Atlanta is a perfect track for him. I think he'll be a lot of fun to work with and have no trouble being a contender."

Loop Data: Atlanta Possible Bounce-Back Race For Skinner, Hornaday

Two drivers, both past champions, had uncharacteristically bad finishes at Daytona -- Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr.

Both have had to sit and mull over their poor standings position for the last two weeks. Finally, they'll have a chance to improve.

And both should.

Skinner, who currently sits 23rd in the standings, is strong at Atlanta, scoring top-five finishes in four of the last five races there, including a victory in 2007.

Over that span, Skinner has had a Driver Rating of 104.2, an Average Running Position of 9.8, an average finish of 7.8, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 81.7% and 27 Fastest Laps Run. What makes those numbers even more impressive: They include his October 2008 race, where he finished 26th with a Driver Rating of 63.6.

Same story for Hornaday, who is in 27th after the season opener. His last four Atlanta races have all been top 10s, and he finished runner-up in three consecutive events from 2007-2008. But no wins, despite outstanding statistics.

In the last four Atlanta races, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 132.7, an Average Running Position of 2.2, an average finish of 3.3 and 101 Fastest Laps Run.

In the two Atlanta races of 2008, Hornaday scored Driver Ratings of 141.8 and 144.3. A perfect rating is 150.0.

Busch, Ballew Return To Atlanta But From Different Directions

Few drivers and teams have dominated a race track as Kyle Busch and Billy Ballew Motorsports. Busch and owner Billy Ballew have won four times at the 1.54-mile track, including three of the past four times the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has competed at AMS.

Is a fifth victory in the cards?

Perhaps -- but only one member of the combination will find itself in Victory Lane.

Busch left his Atlanta owner's team after the 2009 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He formed his own team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, and will take the green flag in his own No. 18 Toyota Tundra Toyota along with teammate Tayler Malsam (No. 56 One Eighty Toyota).

Ballew, meanwhile, returns with Aric Almirola in the defending Atlanta 200 winning No. 51 Gateway Pharmaceuticals Toyota. BBM's second entry, the No. 15 Red Top Auto Auction Toyota, will be driven by Steve Wallace, a NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran making his truck racing debut.

"It's great to race in Billy Ballew's hometown of Atlanta. What better place to bring home a victory for Billy," said Almirola.

Wallace, coming off a 10th-place finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300, said, "This is awesome. It's something I've always wanted to do."

His uncle, Mike Wallace, is a four-time NCWTS winner.

Busch, meanwhile, is pleased to return to Atlanta and go for a 17th career victory that would tie him for fifth on the all-time series list with Todd Bodine and Ted Musgrave.

"It's a track I really like. It's fast and the truck races are always really good," said Busch. "Obviously, getting a win there would be really huge because it would be the first for Kyle Busch Motorsports."

Top-25 Watch Fields for the first four races of the 2010 season are set based on 2009 Owners' Championship points with the top 25 teams locked into the 36-truck fields.

It's not too early to think about the reset to 2010 standings scheduled for May 2 at Kansas Speedway.

Several teams currently protected by last year's points would have to qualify on speed if the reset happened this week.

Among them are Richard Childress Racing's No. 3, Turner Motorsports' No. 4 and Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 15.

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway was an exciting time for all of us and I can't remember a year when there was so much optimism in the garage or enthusiasm among fans of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

"We had to wait an extra day to run this race but that didn't dampen the excitement. We had everything you could ask for and more -- firsttime Daytona winner and pole winner and a lastlap pass for the win.

"It was great to see familiar faces in the garage and to welcome the many new teams -- 25 percent of them weren't with us at Daytona in 2009. That growth shows the commitment of the NASCAR community to our series.

"Now it's time to get down to business at Atlanta Motor Speedway, another track that's featured great racing and finishes since the 1.54- mile facility joined the series in 2004.

"Nobody will forget the back-and-forth battle between Mike Skinner and Bobby Hamilton in 2004. Bobby won the race (and later the championship) as Mike wound up spinning through the grass after his last-ditch pass attempt off Turn 4.

"That's what NASCAR racing is all about and why a truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is a must-see, early-season event.

"By its nature, Atlanta plays into the hands of the always-on-the-gas competitors of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The track is wide and offers plenty of different opportunities to go where the other driver isn't.

"The fans can look forward to three and fourwide racing at speeds of more than 180 miles per hour.

"I look back on the early years of the series, when the mile track at Phoenix International Raceway was our Daytona, and just shake my head about how far we've come.

"Speed hasn't diminished the excitement. The tough trucks are just as exciting at 180 mph as they were at 140 mph.

"And they still trade plenty of paint."

- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

NCWTS Etc.

* Kevin Harvick Inc. has named Doug George as crew chief for the No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet driven by Ron Hornaday Jr. The move unites a pair of former NASCAR Southwest Series champions. George previously served as crew chief for KHI's No. 2 E-Z-Go Chevrolet Harvick will drive in Atlanta.

* Hornaday has been named an honorary H.E.A.T. enforcement officer by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. Last week, Hornaday appeared at a Henry County safety checkpoint and rewarded 30 buckled-up families with free Atlanta Motor Speedway tickets. The event was part of AMS' 50th anniversary celebration.

* The first six NASCAR Camping World Truck races in Atlanta produced six different winners. Just two drivers, Busch and Ryan Newman, won the next four. Bodine, Busch, Hornaday and Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/ Monaco RV Toyota) are former winners expected to compete in this week's race.

* Newman is the only driver to record a first series victory -- his only one to date -- in Atlanta. Six other Atlanta winners have combined for 129 NCWTS victories.

* The 2006 fall race was the track's most competitive event, featuring 21 lead changes.

* Six of the 10 previous races have been won by a driver starting fifth or better. Pole winners Bodine (2006), Skinner (2007) and Busch (2009) parlayed No. 1 starting spots into victories.

Up Next: Kroger 250 at Martinsville

Fans love the up-close action at historic Martinsville Speedway. It's paint-to-pass on the tight, .526-mile track -- the first short track on the 2010 schedule.

Making it even better, the grandstands are among the circuit's closest to the racing making an afternoon at the southern Virginia track one of the year's most anticipated outings.

Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the March 27 Kroger 250 but Martinsville Speedway has a history of not rewarding its most recent winners.

In fact, there have been 12 different winners in the last 13 events at a track hosting spring and fall NASCAR Camping World Truck series races. Dennis Setzer and Mike Skinner are the track's only repeat winners. Each has three victories.

Fast Facts

The Race: Atlanta 200
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile oval)

The Date: Saturday, March 6
The Time: 2 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 200.2 miles/130 laps

TV: SPEED, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Channel 128. (Local: WEKS-FM 92.5 or WWLG-FM 96.7)

2009 Polesitter: Kyle Busch
2009 Winner: Kyle Busch

Schedule:
Friday—Practice, 1-2:20 p.m. and 4:10—5 p.m.
Saturday—Qualifying, 9:35 a.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Mike Wallace , Ryan Newman , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Dennis Setzer , Timothy Peters , Aric Almirola , Tayler Malsam , Steve Wallace , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Turner Motorsport , Kyle Busch Motorsports