Charlotte: Series round seven preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Charlotte Charlotte Shapes Up As Another Busch-Hornaday Battle Don't be surprised if this Friday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 begins the way the 2009 race at Charlotte Motor...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Charlotte

Charlotte Shapes Up As Another Busch-Hornaday Battle

Don't be surprised if this Friday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 begins the way the 2009 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ended -- with Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) and Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota Tundra/Z-Line Toyota) going at it fender on fender.

Look at the race as the rubber match in the pair's ongoing rivalry at Charlotte. They've found Victory Lane in four of the past five Charlotte races with each going to Victory Lane twice.

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) is the only driver to crash the Busch-Hornaday party winning in 2008.

"Battling Hornaday (again) will be good," said Busch, a part-time driver in the series but the standings leader among owners by a slim two points over the No. 51 Billy Ballew Motorsports truck he drove from 2005-09. "But there will be a lot of competitive trucks ... the No. 2 (Elliott Sadler) and Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing/ Crescent Tools Toyota). We know we'll have a lot of competition there." A win would mark Busch's 70th victory in a NASCAR national series race.

The defending race winner and 2009 champion welcomes Busch's challenge.

"Kyle is a tough competitor. He races hard every lap," said Hornaday, a six-time winner a year ago but shut out through six races in 2010. "We just have to work hard on our truck and make sure we have a good setup, so we can be in position at the end to race Kyle or whoever for the win."

Wild Dover Race Shakes Up Standings; Almirola Takes Lead

Aric Almirola came within .057 seconds of claiming his first NASCAR Camping World Truck victory last October when he chased then-teammate Kyle Busch's No. 51 Toyota to the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last weekend the tables turned. Busch dominated the Dover 200 but ran out of fuel with seven laps remaining handing Almirola -- now the driver of the No. 51 AKawareness.com Toyota -- his first NCWTS win. More importantly, the 26-year-old Tampa native took the series championship lead to become the first driver of Hispanic heritage to head a NASCAR national series.

Almirola and Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota) both jumped previous leader Peters, who suffered a second consecutive finish outside the top 20.

The points leader after six races, however, has won the title just three times: Hornaday (1996 and 2009) and Bodine (2006).

Almirola became the third different driver to win in a Billy Ballew Motorsports truck, joining Busch and Shane Hmiel.

Ballew and crew chief Richie Wauters have won races in seven consecutive seasons, best among active teams. The streak began in 2004 with Hmiel's victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Wayne's Words: Charlotte Motor Speedway Is Home Sweet Home

"After a couple of races on the road, it's nice to have a race in pretty much everyone's backyard. That's the case this week when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series sets up at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Friday night's North Carolina Education Lottery 200.

"Having a race in Charlotte this week is exciting on a number of fronts. We're part of the Sprint All-Star celebration and the events surrounding that. But this is also the week the NASCAR Hall of Fame welcomes its first five inductees.

"I'm sure all of this will rub off on our competitors and we look forward to one of our best races ever at the 1.5-mile speedway.

"We've been able to compress all of our activities into a single day. That's good for both the teams and the fans, what with all the other activities taking place.

"Charlotte is the kind of track where the drivers are all in. There are multiple grooves and it makes for a great show.

"We've got just about everything at Charlotte: A first-time winner, Matt Crafton; champion winners Ted Musgrave and Ron Hornaday Jr.; and repeat winners Kyle Busch and Hornaday.

"The 2010 season is shaping up as one of the best ever. The finish of last week's Dover race saw four members of the top five score their best career finishes. We've had five different winners in six races.

"It shows the depth of competition in the series and lets our veterans know they'll have to stay on top of their game as we go forward."

- Wayne Auton, Series Director

Crafton 'Perfect' At Charlotte Motor Speedway

The adage "nobody's perfect" doesn't apply to Matt Crafton when it comes to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Crafton has competed in all seven editions of Friday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 and seven times has finished among the top 10.

The Tulare, Calif., veteran won the 2008 race and has completed all 948 laps the series has run at Charlotte.

What's Crafton's secret? Simply that he likes the track.

"The main reason I like racing at Charlotte is that you can move around," said the 33-year-old veteran whose 228 consecutive starts rank first among active drivers. "Even after they repaved it, you can run anywhere on the track.

"It's not a place where you put it on the white line and ride around. You can actually race there. If the guy in front of you is a little slower, you just hunt for a line and drive on past.

"That's how racing should be."

Crafton likes the concept of a one-day show, a format that's become increasingly popular as a cost-saving method in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Although that's not a foreign concept to most drivers in the series -- virtually all started at a weekly track somewhere -- the single-day arrangement works especially well for Crafton, who was a NASCAR late model touring series champion before driving trucks.

"We were at a different track every week," he said. "You had a short period of time to get used to the track, get the car good, then get qualified and race."

Crafton ranks fifth in NCWTS standings following a seventh-place finish at Dover.

New Kid On The Block: Turner Motorsports Making Presence Felt

Turner Motorsports appears to be the break-out newcomer of the 2010 season after placing its two drivers among the top five at Dover International Speedway last weekend.

James Buescher (No. 31 Wolfpack Rentals Chevrolet) finished in the runner-up position. Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Chevrolet) -- another sophomore driver -- overcame monumental issues during practice and qualifying to claim fourth.

Both drivers had career-best finishes; Turner Motorsports, in its first season as a full-time team, landed its first top fives.

"Starting two trucks from the ground up during the off season was quite an undertaking," said coowner Steve Turner. "I definitely have to thank Kevin Harvick Inc. for all their help and support. We couldn't have done it without them."

Buescher was named a full-time driver last week, joining Carmicheal, now sixth in points.

"With two full-time teams going forward, hopefully we will be able to capitalize even more and help Ricky get even higher in the point standings," said Turner.

Rookies Dillon, Lofton Could Follow Malsam With Stellar Charlott       e
Performanc                                                             e

The following equation arises this weekend: tough competition in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, plus difficulty of Charlotte Motor Speedway, plus immense pressure from driving at "home," equals X.

Logic would suggest that "X" should equal "veteran dominance." But oddly enough, some rookies thrive on the big stage.

Last season, Tayler Malsam (No. 56 Toyota Tundra/One Eighty Toyota) proved his mettle, finishing eighth in his first trip to Charlotte. In the event, Malsam scored a Driver Rating of 86.2, an Average Running Position of 12.0, two Fastest Laps Run and ran 95 of the 134 Laps

Among the Top 15.

A repeat performance this weekend would be huge for Malsam, who is suffering through a sophomore slump of sorts. Malsam has yet to score a top-10 finish, and has a Driver Rating of just 72.6.

Probably the best bet to follow Malsam in the "rookie success at CMS" march is Justin Lofton (No. 7 visitpit.com Toyota), who is coming off his first career NASCAR national series top five.

Lofton finished third at Dover and posted tremendous statistics in the process. At Dover last Friday, Lofton had a Driver Rating of 101.1, an Average Running Position of 8.7, 10 Fastest Laps Run and ran 185 of the 204 Laps Among the Top 15.

Charlotte will be the third 1.5-mile track run this season. In the first two, at Atlanta and Kansas, Lofton finished 20th and 13th, respectively.

Also watch for a strong performance out of Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet), who has two top 10s this season -- both on 1.5-mile layouts. He finished 10th at Atlanta and sixth at Kansas. Statistically, Kansas was Dillon's best race -- he scored a Driver Rating of 92.4 and an Average Running Position of 10.9 in the event.

NCWTS Etc.

It took Justin Lofton awhile to get the hang of racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate nearly snagged a victory at Dover International Speedway. Lofton finished third -- his best series performance by 10 positions.

his is big for us, especially going into Charlotte and going into this stretch," said Lofton, who moved to within two points of rival Austin Dillon in Raybestos Rookie rankings. "We really needed it. I've got the hardest working group of guys out there and to reward them with this was pretty cool."

Nelson Piquet Jr. (No. 15 Qualcomm Toyota) returns to the series for his first of three consecutive starts for the Billy Ballew Motorsports team that ranks sixth in owner championship points. Brazilian Piquet finished ninth in his NCWTS debut at Daytona in February. Adding to the field's international flavor is Narain Karthikeyan (No. 60 Safe Auto Insurance Toyota), hopeful that he'll fare better than several weeks ago at Kansas Speedway where an early accident relegated Karthikeyan to a finish of 36th.

Brad Keselowski (No. 29 Dodge) and Elliott Sadler (No. 2 Chevrolet) can complete a national series sweep with a victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each has won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series. A victory would make Keselowski or Sadler the 20th driver to accomplish the "trifecta."

Sadler and crew chief Butch Hylton return to the site of their first NASCAR Sprint Cup race. They finished 42nd in the 1998 Coca-Cola 600.

The squabble over the 25th and final "lock-in" spot in owner points continues with 15 points separating 24th Norm Benning (No. 57 Chevrolet) from 26th Tom Mitchell, the No. 10 Driven- Male.com Ford of Jennifer Jo Cobb. Figuratively riding the rocking chair this week in 25th is the No. 6 Rick Ware Chevrolet being shared by several drivers. The top 25 eligible owners have guaranteed starting positions each week.

T.J. Bell will make his first start of the season driving MAKE Motorsports' No. 50 Twin Oaks Services South Chevrolet. Bell had a best finish of fifth a year ago driver for Red Horse Racing.

Up Next: Texas

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series celebrates its silver anniversary at Texas Motor Speedway on June 4. The WinStar World Casino 400K marks the 25th time the series has competed at the 1.5-mile speedway in Fort Worth. Todd Bodine is the defending winner of the 167- lap, 400 kilometer/250.5-mile race. Bodine has mastered the track like no other competitor, winning a series record five times including three spring races. Texas Motor Speedway is one of three tracks to host two NCWTS races in 2010. The series returns to Texas for the Nov. 5 Win-Star World Casino 300K.

Fast Facts

Next Race: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

The Date: Friday, May 21
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 201 miles/134 laps

TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. (Listen locally on WFNZ 610 AM.) 2009

Polesitter: Kyle Busch (per rule book)
2009 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.

Schedule prior to race:
Friday -- Practice, 9-10 a.m. and 10:20- 11:50 a.m. Qualifying, 3:30 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Narain Karthikeyan , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , T.J. Bell , Matt Crafton , Shane Hmiel , Nelson Piquet Jr. , Ricky Carmichael , Norm Benning , Elliott Sadler , Brad Keselowski , Timothy Peters , Aric Almirola , Justin Lofton , Tayler Malsam , James Buescher , Austin Dillon , Kyle Busch
Teams Turner Motorsport , Red Horse Racing