Charlotte: Round six preview

Setzer One Of Few Tar Heels To Win In NASCAR Craftsman Trucks North Carolina Education Lottery 200 First Of Five For Busch At LMS Andy Houston Trades Helmet For Place On Spotters' Stand Setzer Lone North Carolina Truck Winner At Lowe's Motor ...

Setzer One Of Few Tar Heels To Win In NASCAR Craftsman Trucks
North Carolina Education Lottery 200 First Of Five For Busch At LMS
Andy Houston Trades Helmet For Place On Spotters' Stand

Setzer Lone North Carolina Truck Winner At Lowe's Motor Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 12, 2008) -- Friday's North Carolina Lottery Education 200 is a hometown race for all but one fulltime NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team.

History, however, shows Dennis Setzer (No 18 Dodge) as the only North Carolina-born driver to win the 201-mile race.

Setzer, from Newton, N.C., won in 2004 and is the only Tar Heel winner in NASCAR national series points competition at Lowe's Motor Speedway since Dale Jarrett's UAW-GM Quality 500 victory in 1997.

That's a far cry from earlier eras when names like Petty, Baker, Parsons and Earnhardt dominated.

"In the beginning, NASCAR was a southern sport but due to corporate sponsors and bigger television packages, it has now grown into a world-wide sport," said Setzer, one of six North Carolina-born winners of series races. Setzer owns 18 of the 30 victories.

The birth of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1995 aided the rush of non-southern and off-oval competitors into the sport. Only one champion -- the late Bobby Hamilton -- was born south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Series graduates include Kurt Busch (Nevada), Kevin Harvick (California) and Greg Biffle (Washington).

"As a driver, I don't have anything against it at all," said Setzer. "I think the growth of our sport is pretty impressive and something we should be proud of."

Kyle Busch Is Back: Crawford Says Give Him His Due

Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts/NOS Energy Drink Toyota) forfeited his point lead last month when conflicts prevented him from competing at Kansas Speedway.

This week the two-time 2008 winner is back. The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 is the first leg of a busy 10 days at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Busch anticipates competing in every NASCAR event -- five races, 814 laps and 1,221 miles. "Hopefully, I can go to Charlotte (and) either win a truck race or All-Star Race or both," said Busch, who comes into Friday's race as the track's only double series winner. "That would be awesome."

Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) has moved into the runnerup position -- No. 2 for the first time since June 2003. He trails leader Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) by 61 points.

Crawford agrees Busch, now sixth in the standings, will continue to impact the series although he's not likely to contend for the title.

"He's probably taken himself out of the points picture because there's a lot of good trucks out there," said Crawford.

Yet, having Busch in the series on a limited basis has caused everyone to elevate their game.

"Hand it to the man; it fits his style right now," said Crawford. "He's on top of his game.

Scott Speed: We're Not In Monte Carlo Anymore

You'll never mistake Turn 1 at Martinsville for Monte Carlo's Casino Square.

Scott Speed (No. 22 Red Bull Toyota), however, has proved himself in Formula One. And, in just his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, he finished 10th at Martinsville Speedway.

Cars, trucks, fenders and no fenders; it really makes no difference to Speed, a Californian who adapted to life in Europe and has reappeared square in the heart of NASCAR racing.

"A lot has happened to me in the last nine months," said Speed, 25, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate. "I lived in Europe for five years and the culture is completely different over there.

"It's actually been an easy transition. It's nice to be closer to my family. It's been a cool homecoming but ... I definitely miss everything about Austria. I'd love to live there again someday."

Facing off with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Bill Davis Racing teammate Mike Skinner isn't all that dissimilar.

Both are among the toughest competitors in their respective environments.

"The drivers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are really tough racers and the level of competition is so high," said Speed, who'll get his first taste of competition at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Friday night.

Speed, like other road racers, is having to "unlearn."

"The biggest difficulty for me has been running around the outside of someone on the track and actually being faster," he said.

Unlike F1, where real-time data is fed to a battery of engineers, information flows from driver to crew chief and back again.

"I do feel that I'm adapting to that change pretty well," said Speed, winner of last month's ARCA RE/MAX race in Kansas. "I learn something new every time I race. One of my goals this year is to just be a sponge and absorb everything I can."

Andy Houston Trades Helmet For A Headset

This is a story of one decade and two garages.

In 1998, a furious, final-laps battle between then rookies Greg Biffle and Andy Houston ended with a bump on the backstretch and Houston in New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Victory Lane.

Both will be busy at Lowe's Motor Speedway Friday -- in different garages with different duties.

Biffle went on to win NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series titles and counts 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories.

Houston, who had a brief NASCAR Sprint Cup career, left the driver's seat for jobs on the other side of the pit wall. He now works for Kevin Harvick Inc. as Jack Sprague's spotter.

"When I'm up in the spotter's stand there are a lot of guys just like me up there -- David Green, Tim Fedewa and Rick Carelli, just to name a few," said Houston. "I think that by being former drivers, we know what is going through the guys' minds sitting in the seats. You also have the distinct advantage knowing when to speak and when to shut up."

Houston, son of NASCAR Nationwide Series legend Tommy Houston, won three times in NASCAR Craftsman Truck competition. He frequently competed alongside his brother Marty.

Houston is one of just six North Carolina-born competitors to win a series race.

"I am very proud to have grown up in the racing center of the world," he said. "Since my dad was involved in racing, I have never known anything different. I now feel privileged to be a part of such an elite group.

"The best years that I've had in my entire racing career were while I was involved with the series. I feel like I played a small part in where it is today."

Etc. and Quotable

Hornaday Holding The Cards. ... You'll see a bounce in Ron Hornaday's step this week heading into the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 as the defending race winner, current standings leader and defending series champion. A year ago, the 49-year-old Californian wasn't sure he'd ever win a race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Five Down; Two To Go. ... Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) needs two more wins for an unprecedented sweep of the seven "intermediate" tracks on the current schedule. He lacks victories at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway. Hornaday also is five-for-seven. His targets are Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Toyota Looks For 50th Pole. ... This might be a good week to reach the milestone. Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) has won three consecutive poles at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Toyota has run just 105 races. Raybestos Rookies Haven't Fared Well At Lowe's

Lowe's Motor Speedway proclaims itself "The Beast of the Southeast."

Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates aren't about to argue the point.

Aric Almirola's ninth-place finish in 2006 stands as the best performance.

Here is how each season's Raybestos Rookie of the Year fared at LMS:
Carl Edwards, 12th, 2003
David Reutimann, 36th, 2004
Todd Kluever, 20th, 2005
Erik Darnell, 10th, 2006
Willie Allen, 21st, 2007

Edwards, however, went to school on his initial brush with LMS. He finished second the following year. Darnell, conversely, finished 30th last year. Regardless, all the candidates will be on equal footing. None has competed in a series race at LMS.

Up Next:

Competitors go from one of the series' larger speedways to its smallest when the fifth edition of the Ohio 250 is held May 24 at the .5-mile Mansfield Motorsports Park.

Four races have produced four different winners. Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) won the inaugural race in 2004 and has finished second in each of the past three seasons.

In The Loop:

Ron Hornaday Jr. put on a racing clinic during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway last season.

It was something to behold. Hornaday, starting seventh, needed only 19 laps to grab the lead. He led a race-high 98 of 136 laps and scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0.

Some of his other race highlights: He had an Average Running Position of 1.7 and 49 Fastest Laps Run. He was passed during a green flag run only three times and spent all 136 laps running in the top 15.

Few challenged Hornaday. Mike Skinner was among them. Skinner, who's had surprising difficulties at LMS, finished eighth last season. It was his only top-10 finish in four series races there.

A lot of Skinner's poor finishes were a result of bad luck. In 2005, he led 40 laps and scored a Driver Rating of 113.9, but finished 26th because of an accident. In 2006, he led 38 laps and had a Driver Rating of 106.8, but finished 31st thanks to engine problems.

Todd Bodine has followed a similar LMS path -- strong runs but zero wins. Bodine has consecutive third-place finishes at LMS, and over the past three years has a Driver Rating of 98.4 and an Average Running Position of 12.0.

Then, as always, Kyle Busch will be a story whenever he's running in the series. He'll be back this weekend, and carries two wins and series-high marks at LMS in Driver Rating (122.6) and Fastest Laps Run (81) into this race.

More Etc.

Rosenblum Recovering. ... Jim Rosenblum, whose No. 28 Chevrolet will be driven at Lowe's by Wayne Edwards, underwent a successful cardiac procedure last week at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He expects to be with the team in Charlotte.

Top 30 Battle Boils. ... Having a truck among the top 30 in owner points is a ticket into the race regardless of qualifying speed. Sixteen points is the difference between the 27th and 31st positions. Special Colors For Red Horse. ... Red Horse Racing will fly the colors of PIT Corporate Training on the No. 11 Toyota Tundra this week As part of the corporate partnership with the team, David Starr's truck will be adorned in a special blue and black paint scheme. Quotable

"With the tapered spacer and gear rule, momentum is going to be more important than ever. You used to want to run the (white) line down through turns three and four. Now I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of drivers right up next to the wall to get momentum for that long frontstretch." - Ted Musgrave, No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota, winner of the inaugural North Carolina Lottery Education 200.

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"My memories of Lowe's -- well, it was then Charlotte Motor Speedway -- go back nearly four decades.

"I was 12 years old when my dad took me to my first race there. He ran the fire crew but just because he got me in didn't mean I could go into the garage. I was too young.

"The first race I actually worked was in 1974. I was a spotter in the tower down in Turn 1. David Pearson won with only one caution and it definitely was the longest day I ever had working a race.

"Chances are good that a veteran driver will be celebrating in Victory Lane at the end of the evening.

"Lowe's Motor Speedway seems to have way too much for a rookie driver to absorb in one night.

"Of course, that's not always the case. Kyle Busch became the series' youngest winner in 2005 at the age of 20.

"A driver has to finesse his way around this track and understand what it takes to both keep up but still be around at the end.

"It takes a very good crew chief to understand how the track changes and make the adjustments to keep his driver in the game.

"Bottom line: A veteran driver is best able to provide the feedback to help his crew chief make those critical adjustments." Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director.

FAST FACTS

The Race: North Carolina Education Lottery 200

The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway
The Date: May 16, 2008

The Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 201 miles / 134 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-Mile Paved Oval

2007 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule: Friday: Practice, 9-10:00 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.-11:50 a.m.; Qualifying, 3:35 p.m.

-credit: nascar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Fernando Alonso , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , David Green , Rick Carelli , Scott Speed , David Reutimann , Carl Edwards , Wayne Edwards , Todd Kluever , Aric Almirola , Willie Allen , Erik Darnell , Kyle Busch , David Pearson
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Red Horse Racing